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Negev Bedouins, Unprotected By Israel And Victims Of Hamas

No Iron Dome here...

A Bedouin elder in the ruins of his home
A Bedouin elder in the ruins of his home
Florence Beaugé

QASR AL-SIR — There are no sirens here, no shelters and no “Iron Dome,” Israel's air defense system.

It was 11 a.m. Saturday, July 19. Ouda al-Waja, 30, was resting under the porch of his small shack, sheltering from the hot weather. His youngest daughter, just three months, is sleeping next to him. Suddenly, a rocket blast hits the front porch, and steel rains down, killing the young father instantly. The young girl's head is severely injured, and four people from the same family are hit by the Hamas attack intended for other parts of Israel.

Qasr al-Sir, one of the many Bedouin camps in the Negev desert, is only 60 kilometers from Gaza. Virtually in the middle of nowhere, this Israeli village built of canvas and corrugated iron is often hit by Hamas rockets. The Palestinian movement’s intended targets are Dimona and Beersheba, but the missiles sometimes fall on those who are supposed to be allies. Although they are Israeli citizens, the 200,000 Negev Bedouins are in fact Arabs or Muslims who, like the Palestinians, were transferred under the yoke of Israel when it was created in 1948.

“It's war. I don’t blame Hamas or Israel, but I reproach Israel for not protecting all of its citizens equally,” says a glum Souleiman, Ouda’s father-in-law.

The crater the rocket left was filled with sand and stones, but the rest — twisted corrugated iron and broken glass — is still untouched. Given such a desolate sight, the sound of the goats and sheep bleating seems out of place.

Souleiman al-Waja, 41, is the leader of the al-Wadj tribe. He has two wives and 15 children. Some 400 people, all related, live in Qasr al-Sir, one of the Negev’s 35 unrecognized villages. There is no running water, just a hose connected to Dimona, three kilometers away, and no electricity either, except for that produced by solar panels. And no collection of wastewater or garbage.

“The tent over there is to be demolished by the authorities’ order,” the tribe leader says wearily, pointing to a bivouac where some 20 women and young children are busying themselves. “Our village was declared illegal, but I was born here. Like my father and his father before him. We have no other choice but to stay here.”

A few hundred meters from here, a group of men are gathering to honor Ouda’s memory. Lying on mats under a tent, they are speaking Arabic. They still dream of the past, back when they were free to come and go as they pleased in the Negev. Today, under Israel’s military laws, the Bedouins are living on only 10% of their ancestors’ territories.

“War doesn't scare us,” says a tribesman named Salem, divided between nostalgia and anger. “Our black goats from the Sinai used to show us all the paths and caves where to hide. Now, we can’t settle where we want, and we get killed.”

Driven to the other side

Unlike their parents, younger generations of Bedouins (60% are under 18) feel increasingly closer to the Palestinians. “It’s the solidarity of the excluded,” explains Haia Noach, executive director of the NGO Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. The Bedouins are the poorest community in Israel. Almost 70% of them live below the poverty line. Infant mortality, for example, is eight times higher than in Tel-Aviv.

Israel is increasingly looking to the south, and many firmly believe that the country sees the Negev as a new frontier. But the Bedouins see the region’s development plan, which supposes that 40,000 of them will be displaced, as first and foremost meant to benefit Israel’s military industry.

On top of Dimona's nuclear power plant, large military bases soon will be built, along with training camps, new towns and new settlements — all officially meant to relieve the West Bank and compensate for the loss of Gaza, and even leisure centers. “We will become the region's Las Vegas,” some claim.

Their fellow Jewish citizens have a poor opinion of the Negev Bedouins. The latter believe they are seen as “a kind of Roma,” “thieves, liars and scroungers,” and therefore do not seek to integrate Israeli society anymore, but rather to obtain the same rights.

“They are deeply attached to the land of their ancestors,” insists Haia Noach. “This is what their current battle with the state is all about.” But Lior Rosenberg, a doctor at the Beersheba hospital, fears that the Bedouins are no more no less than a “time bomb” for Israel.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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