In the coming weeks, the Israeli government is expected to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem. The destruction of the village is a dangerous precedent that will serve as a launching pad for the evacuation of some 2,000 additional Bedouin residents in the E1 area. The court is expected to approve the destruction in the coming days, and it will then be in the hands of the political decision of the Israeli government to implement it or to change the policy and let them stay.
Members of the Jahalin tribe living in the village were expelled from Israel from the Tel Arad area in the Negev in the early 1950s, and became refugees. After a period of migration north, in the southern Hebron hills, a number of the Jahalin communities settled in the Khan al-Ahmar with the consent of the Palestinian landowners. However, Israel, which had occupied the land since 1967, later declared the lands inhabited by the tribe as state lands, and settlements were established in the area. The Israeli policy was to curtail the Bedouin’s way of life with the intention of removing them from the area: Israel refused to issue construction permits for them and instead issued demolition orders for every structure they built (tents, fences, huts etc.).
The School in Khan Al-Ahmar
In the past, the children of Khan al-Ahmar had to study far away – in Abu Dis or Jericho – and some did not even study at all. In 2009, the community established a school in the area, in order to provide all children with a basic education. This was done with the help of international organizations specializing in ecological construction, which built a small school out of used tires and local mud. This school currently has 160 students, from grades 1 to 9, all of whom live in surrounding Bedouin communities.
Immediately after completion of the construction, demolition orders were issued by the Civil Administration, and for many years the nearby Israeli settlements of Kfar Adumim, Alon and Nofei Prat, in cooperation with the right-wing Regavim organization, have been engaged in a legal and political battle to implement the orders, claiming that the Jahalin residence on the Jerusalem-Jericho road constitutes a strategic threat to Israel. Four petitions were submitted to the High Court of Justice, the last one focusing on the demolition of the school made of tires and mud. In response to this petition, the state announced that the Defense Minister has ruled to demolish the school and the nearby community by June 2018.
Because of the High Court of Justice ruling that the state must offer an alternative to housing, the residents of Khan al-Ahmar were offered to move to a compound located in an urban area adjacent to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis – located adjacent to the dumping site of the Jerusalem area. This proposal, which is practically a forced relocation of a community, constitutes a violation of the international law and cannot be implemented in any form: densely populated urban areas will destroy the bedouin’s culture and way of life, they will lose their traditional sources of employment and it will cause far-reaching social and economic problems especially for the women of the community, as seen in past experience (when in the 90’s other parts of the Jahalin tribe were forcibly moved to Al-Jabal area in Abu Dis in order to enable the expansion of the Maale Adumim settlement). In addition, although the proposed land in Abu Dis has been declared state land, its owners have not accepted this and are firmly opposed to settling the Bedouin on land that they regard as private and belonging to them. The Abu Dis municipality even gave the tribe a clear threat not to dare to settle there. It is clear that the Jahalin community will not be able to move to a place where they are so threatened and unwanted.
For an in-depth study of the Bedouin communities in E1 area see Bimkom’s study here
Peace Now: the State of Israel must implement a policy of moral values, justice, equality and human rights for the Jahalin people. It is not in the Israeli interest to forcibly move them from their homes. We must stop the abuse that has been going on for decades, and allow them to live according to their way of life, to make a living and to educate their children in a way that is no different from that of the Jews living in their neighborhoods.