The Bedouin of the Negev are citizens of the State of Israel and many of them serve in the Israeli army. They are traditionally are a nomadic people, whose way of life has been drastically curtailed since the establishment of international borders which prevent their wanderings with their families and tents and herds of sheep and goats. Therefore, in the last few hundred years, they have settled into communities or villages which are spread throughout the northern Negev (in addition to some other areas within Israel and the West Bank). These small villages are mostly unrecognized by the government, which means that they live off the grid – no electricity from the national electric company, no water supply, and no garbage removal. The government of Israel is trying to urbanize this community by destroying the villages and moving the people into towns in which every family would be given a small plot of land on which they can build a permanent home. But how would they continue their lifestyle of herding goats and sheep?
The Unrecognized, a new documentary film by Anna Oliker, which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival recently, tells an important story about the issue of the demolition of Bedouin villages in the northern Negev.
The film focuses on Othman, who previously served as the principal of a local school. Now he has been appointed to convince the people of Bir Hadaj to accept the new town plan and to sign on the dotted line. He recruits his sister, Aisha, to work with the women and young girls, especially helping them to understand the importance of education.
As things progress in their work, there are elections in Israel and the government minister in charge of this plan for urbanization is switched and suddenly all the plans and promises fall apart and village demolitions begin anew. Even with this terrible set-back, Bir Hadaj is considered a steadfast symbol of resistance and hope among the Bedouin communities in the Negev.
More a reportage than a documentary, The Unrecognized (48 minutes) is available from the filmmaker, Bolt Productions, email@example.com.