I’ve been researching Bedouin issues in the Negev Desert for about 5 years, and one of the first individuals I met was Nuri El-Ukbi. Nuri and the El-Ukbi tribe have claims to the land named in arabic El-Araquib, which is roughly situated between Rahat and Beersheva.
It is a vast area of land, roughly 19,000 dunams, and Nuri has documents showing ancestral tithes to this piece of land that stretch back to Mandate and Turkish rule. In 1951 the El-Ukbi tribe were transferred to land around Hura.
Nuri, on behalf of his father and grandfather, both sheiks (deceased) of the El-Ukbi tribe, has lived in a protest tent on the land for several years now, conducting virtually a one-man non-violent protest against the powers-that-be who will not allow the tribe to live on or farm this piece of land. Some of it has been given over to a gated settlement, Givaot Bar, and another chunk has been given to members of the Tarabin tribe. Attempts to plant trees and sow crops there by the El-Ukbi tribe and their many Jewish and International supporters meet with the Police and Green Patrol intervening and destroying trees and crops.
It is a visually stunning landscape. I was there yesterday with Nuri, and together we watched birds of prey circle overhead. Here is a short piece of film I made recently about Nuri….
Sadly, he told me the tree has now completely died. The new growth could not flourish. Nuri however, remains in El-Araquib, defiant and quietly optimistic. He is a great example of non-violent protest. He is, like the title of a book he has written about his life, ‘waiting for justice’ ……………..