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Planning Opinion of “Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights”

In September 2017, under pressure from the High Court of Justice, the State proposed two alternative solutions for the residents of Khan al-Ahmar. However, both options have been deemed unworkable. The first proposal suggested resettling the community in west Jabel , an area adjacent to Abu Dis. This specific location is comprised of a narrow strip situated between the developed zone of Abu Dis and the main road. 


“Bimkom,” founded by planners and architects, issued a response to the government’s suggestion to relocate the communities of Khan-al-Ahmar to west Jabel. In their statement, they highlighted the "impracticality of this plan for a wide variety of reasons, including incompatibility with the nature of the community, lack of available housing units, social and cultural constraints, and the potential for conflict with landowners and neighboring residents, among other issues."


The response comments further on the State’s proposal, asserting "considerable doubt as to whether it is legally possible to secure permits based on the given plan, largely due to its blatant lack of directives. This technical oversight is merely one example of the broader shortcomings inherent in the plan, intended from the onset for Bedouin residents.... Despite efforts that were allegedly made, it becomes evident that these assertions hold no factual basis and have nothing in common with reality."


As for the tensions among the communities within west Jabel, the response states that "these circumstances only make the decision worse, further underscoring the ethically questionable proposition of relocating residents of Khan al-Ahmar to this location." In closing, the statement stresses that "any viable solution for this population should consider all social and cultural factors at play, and certainly not disregard pre-existing conflicts, as is the case in this arbitrary decision."


Another document submitted by the association outlining foundational planning principles for the Bedouin community states that "it is necessary to approach this form of settlement (the Bedouin settlement) in a manner similar to how other forms of settlement with unique characteristics are addressed – such as a kibbutz, a community settlement, a workers' camp, or a village.... Therefore, we must acknowledge the inherent logic specific to the Bedouin settlement, and plan for it from this perspective."


The document further proposes that "the characterization of the Bedouin settlement should aim, first and foremost, to maintain a low building density, resonating with the nature of rural-agricultural settlements, and aligning with the cultural and lifestyle norms of its residents.... The planning of Bedouin settlements must take into account the living conditions of the resident population, and aim to nurture this lifestyle within its spatial context. This involves creating a proper planning infrastructure that is attuned to the evolving socio-spatial dynamics of the population."


In the document, the organization members make reference to the prevailing lifestyle of the Bedouins residing in Area C. They highlight "a constant lack of public services for most of the Bedouin residents in the area. Provision of public services is key to enhancing the living conditions and overall welfare of the population, and it is therefore necessary to allow ample space for the establishment and continued development of adequate public service facilities.”


Regarding employment among the members of the community, the document emphasizes that "the lack of economic and employment infrastructure, coupled with high unemployment rates, necessitates the establishment of conditions that not only support existing employment options but more importantly foster a variety of new employment opportunities.... The plans (submitted by the association) outline a separate zone designated for employment and trade, including space for small-scale workshops (auto repair, carpentry, locksmith services, etc.), a commercial area that will serve both residents and passers-by, and a tourist zone integrating artisanal production, restaurants, and other tourist-related activities." 

At the same time, the document conveys the utmost importance of preserving and fostering the traditional practice of sheep herding, an indispensable facet of the community’s existing livelihood sources. Sheep herding must therefore be integrated as much as possible into the broader spectrum of employment development initiatives within the region.

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