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Israeli rights group demands Israel connect Bedouin village school to power grid

Sept. 21, 2017 5:19 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2017 9:19 P.M.)
Bedouin woman sits in front of the ruins of her family house in the Bedouin village of al-Arakib in the Negev Desert, north of Beersheva on August 4, 2010 (AFP Photo/David Buimovitch)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli rights group Adalah has demanded in a letter to senior Israeli officials that Israel connect a school in the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Naam in the Negev of southern Israel to the national electricity grid, Adalah reported on Tuesday, as the village's local council called the situation “shameless.”

According to the letter, 3,000 children in Wadi al-Naam are forced to study in schools powered by diesel generators owing to a lack of electricity in the village. The electrical power lines connected to the village are only serving Israeli chemical plants located near the area, and not the village or the schools, according to Adalah.

At the start of this month, Adalah sent a letter to the Israeli Education Ministry's Southern District Director Amira Haim, Israel Electric Corporation CEO Eli Glickman, the Interior Ministry's Southern District Director Avi Heller, and to Neve Midbar Regional Council head Ibrahim Elhawashli, demanding that Israel connect schools in Wadi al-Naam to Israel's electricity grid.

Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher said in the letter that the diesel deliveries to the school take place during active hours, and pose health and safety risks to the students and staff.

"Access to the generators is not entirely blocked off and children are able to walk over to the generators during recesses in the schoolyards, putting them in life-threatening danger. The generators also produce noise, which disturbs classes,” Zaher said.

She added that during power outages, the school’s staff are forced “to cancel school entirely – particularly during periods of heavy heat and cold winter temperatures.”

The group has been demanding that unrecognized Bedouin villages be connected to Israel’s power grid for years. Adalah had filed an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court regarding a similar issue back in 2009, when the group demanded that the Israeli state connect two schools in the village of Abu Tulul to the national power grid.

According to the statement, the Israeli Supreme Court had ruled in the past that schools in Bedouin villages must be connected to Israel’s national power grid, describing the conditions in the village as “totally unacceptable” and constituting “a grave failure on the part of the state.”

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins, who hold Israeli citizenship, reside in unrecognized villages.

The Wadi al-Naam village was established in the 1950s soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that established the state of Israel.

Military officials forcibly transferred the Negev Bedouins to the site 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.

In July, the Israeli government approved plans to build townships for Israel’s Bedouin community. The planned township is expected to be built just south of Shaqib al-Salam, another Bedouin township, and would forcibly transfer the residents of Wadi al-Naam there.

“Our children have the right to study in reasonable conditions, like any other child in the State of Israel. It is shameful that in 2017 we have to ask to get a school connected to electricity,” the Wadi al-Naam local council said in the letter.

“We demand that the Education Ministry take immediate action to connect schools in the village to the electricity grid," the council added.
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