by Andrew Friedman/TPS
The Housing Ministry’s has approved a master plan for a new neighborhood in the Bedouin city of Rahat, near Be’er Sheva. The permits for 4,541 homes will provide housing for approximately 20,435 people, increasing by nearly one-third the city’s population from the current 62,000 residents.
The decision comes on the heels of repeated calls in the Bedouin community for the government to legalize dozens of “unrecognized” encampments in southern Israel, as well as calls from Jewish Israeli groups to rein in what they call a Bedouin “take over” of the area.
Last January, Police Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi, 34, was killed during the course of a violent demonstration at Umm al-Hiran when security forces arrived to demolish the unrecognized village. Levi was hit by a car driven by a 50-year-old Bedouin man, Ya’akub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, who was shot dead by police officers. MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) was also wounded during the demonstrations.
The new homes will be built on state land at the southern reach of the city, and on Bedouin-owned sections.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel praised the decision, saying “the government must provide reasonable housing opportunities for every Bedouin citizen in the Negev. The master plan for Rahat that we approved today expresses both the government’s commitment and my desire for a complete solution to the issues of Bedouin housing in the Negev.”
“The city of Rahat is growing, and will double its population by 2040,” added Yair Maayan, director general of the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority. “The Authority is working to meet the needs of this growing population in Rahat and to help the city develop, so it can serve as an example for the entire Negev,” Maayan said.
Committee Chairman Eran Nitzan said “the plan will make possible the city’s continued development and will serve as an urban focal point for the Bedouin community in the south.”