This is how the Bedouin village Al-Araqib, a few kilometers north of Beerh-Sheva, looks today, after the village was destroyed more than 30 times: Flat and desolate like the moon’s surface, with here and there a remnant of a demolished shelter, and of course – the people who refuse to give up their land and their lives in this place.
Almost every conceivable authority paid this land a visit – both ones that belong to the state and those that the state actually belongs to: The Israel Land Administration (ILA) bulldozers destroyed the houses and uprooted the trees with the guidance of “Green Patrol” inspectors, accompanied by a massive police force.
After the demolition, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) bulldozers came to efface the traces of the villages, reshaping the surface and prepare the land for forestation. And after they finished, dozens of trucks arrived in the village and carried away the piles of debris from the demolished homes. Their purpose was to not only erase the village, but to erase the very act of its demolition as well, to cover up all traces of that crime.
Here stood Jum‘a’s house.
In ancient Arabic poetry, there is a genre named “wuquf 'ala al-atlal” (الوقوف على الأطلال): the lover stands by the remains of the camp of his loved one, who has gone. Look at the traces of concrete in the sand. There was once a home here, a real house.
An electric wire pokes out of the sand.
This is called colonialism. There is no other name for it: the social, cultural, natural and human landscape that once existed has been almost completely erased.
The JNF, however, has not yet succeeded in covering this land with its own conquering trees. After the rains of the last few weeks, here and there the “wrong trees” can be glimpsed sticking up from the desolate surface. These are the olive trees of Al-Araqib, deep-reaching roots of life that stubbornly flourish anew despite attempts to destroy and erase them.
We went looking for these rebellious trees that refuse to die. In the moon-surface landscape left by the JNF bulldozers, Hafed showed me a young olive tree sapling who stubbornly raised its head anew.
It was not the only one. Abdallah showed me another stubborn tree.
Hafed showed me one small tree of the several thousands trees that grew here before the first demolition.
And another that somehow survived and continues to grow.
There used to grow flowers near the houses. Ali shows me one, handling it with almost parental care.
Life in Al-Araqib continues. Some bad trees, the trees that the people of Al-Araqib lovingly planted, are returning, raising their heads, while the JNF bulldozers are planning to restart their work to erase the village and cover it over with the right trees. The JNF established a new work camp south of Al-Araqib, complete with lighting-towers and guards; they brought barbed wire, and built a dirt barrier that surrounds the camp like a medieval castle.
In the camp itself, the JNF bulldozers are awaiting orders. Here is one of them. The old village cemetery is visible in the background.
The Jewish National Fund refuses to announce a complete halt of its operations on Al-Araqib’s lands. In fact, it has never stopped employing heavy-duty machinery on the lands of the Al-Ukbi and Abu-Freih families in order to create facts on the ground and to plant forests — even while court deliberations are ongoing.
Of course, there is little chance that the courts will render justice for the Bedouins, but the JNF is not waiting around to find out; in fact, it’s speeding up. You can colonize using people, and you can colonize using trees. To plant the right trees, you need to uproot the bad trees.
Here is a photo taken by Yotam Ronen from Activestills in Al-Araqib, October 2009, about six months before the first complete demolition of the village.
The future can be like this too – if we stop the JNF and the Israel Land Administration, the Pravers and the Amidrors, architects of the plan for dispossessing the Bedouins, and all the rest who see the “wrong children” and the “wrong trees” as their enemies, who work to dispossess people of the “wrong nationality,” or of the wrong color. These institutions, the mechanisms of dispossession, are our enemies, and the enemies of all who want to live here in equality.