Indigenous peoples in Israel

Approximately 190,000 Arab-Bedouins (or 2.6 percent of Israel’s overall population) live in the Negev desert of Israel.

During the 1948 war, some 65,000 of the Naqab (Negev) Bedouin fled to Gaza and the West Bank, leaving only 12,000 within Israeli borders. In the early 1950s, the Israeli Government concentrated this indigenous semi-nomadic population within the so-called Siyag (Siyaj in Arabic), a restricted geographical area in eastern Negev of approximately 1,000 km2 (or about 10% of the Bedouins’ former territory).

Today, half of the Bedouin population lives in villages unrecognized by the state of Israel. These villages do not appear on Israeli maps, have no road signs indicating their existence, and are denied basic services and infrastructure, including paved roads, running water, garbage disposal, electricity, and proper schools and clinics. It is illegal to build permanent structures in these villages. Those that do so risk heavy fines and home demolitions.

The other half of the Bedouin population is concentrated in seven government-planned townships, built between the late 1960s and early 1990s in the Siyag area as urban centers, giving little or no consideration to the traditional Arab-Bedouin way of life, and without providing possibilities for local employment.

Yearly update

Read the 2012 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Israel to learn about major developments and events during 2011 (internal link)

Download the 2011 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Israel to read more about major developments and events during 2010