Traveling through divided Israel


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

In fact, his search for belonging may have pushed him in the opposite direction: what ultimately sustains him, he says, is his connection, as a Jew, to this land.

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

However, the police knew where. They arrived an hour after us, in a convoy of five police cars and a truck carrying two bulldozers, sending the villagers’ horses galloping into the desert. Lying on the sand under a tree, playing with his rosary, the aging sheikh of the village jumped to his feet, shouting for his son to drive out the police.

“Take their photos! ” He shouted.

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

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

The al-Turi family are descended from Bedouin Arab nomads who roamed the region for centuries and then settled in the Negev before the founding of Israel.

Israel says most Bedouins have no rights to the land, since their property claims were never recorded in Ottoman-era land registers. For decades, the government has attempted to move more than 30 Bedouin communities from their traditional Negev pastures to seven purpose-built towns.

The most important resistance is Araqib. Residents showed us copies of a purchase document which they claim proves they purchased the land from another tribe in 1905. The state claims the Ottomans never documented the sale.

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