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Traveling Through a Divided Israel

Traveling Through a Divided Israel


Palestinians also take inspiration from Black Lives Matter, and I asked if that had prompted Mr. Tasama to draw any comparisons between his struggle and theirs. He said he hadn’t really considered it.

In fact, his search for belonging had perhaps pushed him in the opposite direction: What ultimately sustains him, he said, is his connection, as a Jew, to this land.

“It is our right to be here,” he said. “This is the place that God gave us.”

The police knew where, though. They arrived an hour after we did, in a convoy of five police cars and a truck carrying two bulldozers, sending the villagers’ horses cantering into the desert. Lying on the sand under a tree, fiddling with his prayer beads, the aging village sheikh sprang to his feet, shouting at his son to chase the police.

“Take their photos!” he yelled.

It was a futile gesture. The police had demolished parts of the village 191 times since 2010, according to a rights watchdog; a camera had never deterred them. This time, their bulldozers knocked down two tents, then left as quickly as they had come.

“That was number 192,” said Aziz al-Turi, the sheikh’s son.

The al-Turi family is descended from Bedouin Arab nomads who crisscrossed the region for centuries, and later settled in the Negev before Israel was founded.

Israel says that most of the Bedouins have no right to the land, since their ownership claims were never recorded in Ottoman-era land registries. For decades, the government has been trying to move more than 30 Bedouin communities from their traditional grazing grounds in the Negev into seven purpose-built towns.

The most prominent holdout is Araqib. Residents showed us copies of a purchase document that they say proves they bought the land from another tribe in 1905. The state says the Ottomans never documented the sale.



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