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Israel agrees to install bus stops for Bedouin schoolchildren in Negev

July 11, 2017 8:54 P.M. (Updated: July 11, 2017 10:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Education Ministry has reportedly decided to provide bus stops to enable Bedouin children in the Negev Desert to safely go to school, NGO Adalah reported on Tuesday.

According to Adalah, the ministry responded on July 2 to a petition by the rights group before the Beer Sheva district court, saying that the Israeli government was planning to build safe school bus stops to benefit six Bedouin villages in the southern Negev.

The court set a hearing for September in order to monitor any progress on the issue.

Adalah filed the petition in January on behalf of families in the unrecognized Bedouin villages of al-Zarnuq and Wadi al-Naam, and the recognized villages of Abu Tlul, Abu Qrinat, Umm Batin, and Kuhleh.

“Hundreds of school children currently gather at random locations close to main roads with no signs, sidewalks or shelters.The lack of bus stops poses a serious safety hazard that endangers the lives and physical well-being of these children,” Adalah’s legal petition read.

“These conditions do not exist in schools in Jewish communities in the (Negev), where authorities take care to establish proper bus stops and to eliminate safety hazards. The failure to establish proper school bus stops [for the Bedouin community] creates a situation of blatant inequality in the enforcement of the law.”

The Education Ministry said that it would fund infrastructure related to the bus stops to also include protective fences, sidewalks, and road crossings, Adalah said.

In June, Adalah raised the alarm over the installation of a guardrail on an Israeli highway which had effectively isolated the unrecognized Bedouin community of Umm Bidoun in the Negev and prevented 100 Bedouin children from attending school.

Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel. Many of the Bedouins were forcibly transferred to the village sites during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel's military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

Between 160,000 and 170,000 Bedouins are believed to reside in the Negev today, more than half of whom reside in unrecognized villages, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

The classification of their villages as “unrecognized” prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, while Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, and have excluded the communities from access to health and educational services.

A Knesset report on Bedouins in Israel noted that “(school) dropout rates are high, among various reasons due to lack of access and public transportation to their schools.”

Meanwhile, Jewish-Israeli communities in the Negev continuously expand, with five new Jewish plans approved last year. According to an investigation undertaken by Israeli rights groups ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved communities are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.

Rights groups have claimed that Israeli policies in Bedouin communities are specifically aimed at depopulating the Negev of its Bedouin residents to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.
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