Coping with a Policy of Non-recognition: Israeli Negev Bedouin Housing Practices

  • Steven C. Dinero Philadelphia University
Keywords: Negev Bedouin, Resettlement, Contested Space


Israeli housing policy in the Negev Bedouin sector is highly charged, politicized, and controversial. More than half of the population of about 200,000 former nomads have been resettled and now reside in “proper” stone homes in planned towns, most (though not all) enjoying the accoutrements of modern living standards. More than a third of the population, conversely, resist resettlement and continue to reside in informal settlements, unrecognized by the State, where basic provisions are largely lacking. Housing stock is irregularly designed, constructed and managed; similarly, transportation and communication networks to and from these settlements, and within them, are haphazardly designed, constructed, and maintained. This paper considers the State’s ongoing initiative to resettle the Bedouin community in a rational, organized, logical, and planned manner. Such policies at the level of the individual domicile stem from an overall effort by the State to rationalize and develop the Bedouin community as a whole. At the same time, the ways in which families utilize and respond to the domestic realm whether formalized or informal, irregular spaces is discussed. It is argued that attitudes toward housing layout, design, and structure provide but one example of how social and political relations with the State are actualized and contested. Thus, it is concluded that State’s housing policy among the Bedouin of the Negev contains a variety of elements worthy of study and analysis. For in the Bedouin case, the abode has taken on political significances which may belie the existence of four simple stone walls.


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