Opposition to the Outline Zoning Plan for the Village of Wadi Alna’am

Residents of Wadi Alna’am
Photo by Sana Ibn Bari, ACRI

Wadi Alna’am, which houses over 10,000 residents, is the largest unrecognized village in the Negev. It was formed in the 50’s, when the state authorities and military relocated residents - Bedouin citizens - from their historic lands to the area of the village as it is today, as part of a policy to concentrate Arab residents and Bedouin in the Sayag area of the Negev. Since then, the village residents have invested in the development of their living space, which has become a functioning village - despite the lack of recognition from the state, lack of basic services, and the constant threat of removal and destruction of homes.

Ever since 1987, the village residents have been in contact with state authorities in order to establish a rural-agricultural village, fit for their needs, traditions and way of living. Time and time again, the state tries to force upon them unfit “solutions.” Throughout the years, the residents’ appeals have fallen on deaf ears, and all they were offered was to be removed, despite their opposition, to the town of Segev Shalom, which is not fit to their needs and way of living.

On 3.11.2020, ACRI and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights filed an opposition to local outlining zoning plan no. 699-0669481 for the village of Wadi Alna’am, on behalf of the village representatives. We argued that this plan discriminates against the residents of Wadi Alna’am in comparison to the Jewish population, and violates their residential rights for equality, health, home, dignity, and the right of Israeli-born populations to maintain their culture and way of living.

In opposition, we claimed that similarly to former plans, this outline zoning plan also ignores the desires of the village residents regarding the planning of the village’s nature and future borders. The proposed location is again bordering the town of Segev Shalom, and 70-80% of the residents will be forced to leave their homes and relocate due to the building restrictions in the Naot Hovev area. The proposed settlement is also urban or suburban in nature, which will prevent the residents from fulfilling their rural, agricultural and communal lifestyle.

We argued that the plan and the decision to approve it were not based on facts on the ground (such as the size of the population and its expected growth), and that not all relevant issues were taken into consideration and planned out. For example, the location and borders of the planned village were dictated by the radius of the environmental limitations of the Naot Hovev industrial area, despite the fact that ever since 2004 there has not been an updated assessment of the environmental health effects of the area.

We insisted that the success and degree of implementation of the plan is dependent on the agreement and cooperation of the residents. We mentioned that there had previously been such approved plans in the Negev that had failed to be implemented and did not effectively yield development, and that advancing the plan at all costs without the support of residents would lead to an unimplementable plan.