The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 

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Save the Negev

What Is "Blueprint Negev"?     Save the Negev     Protect the Bedouin

Negev map:
  • Bedouin villages have been demolished by Israel for Negev development
  • Al-Arakib, a village predating the state of Israel, was demolished July 27, 2010
  • Please: Tell JNF-US you want them to revise Blueprint Negev
  • Read our list of what JNF-US needs to do to create a different model for developing the Negev
  • Read "The Giving Tree" to find out something you can do to make a difference right now
  • If you give to KKL or JNF, make a matching gift to Bustan
  • Read Ohalah's resolution on Blueprint Negev!   Sign a petition.   See more links about the Negev.

    The Jewish National Fund office in North America (JNF-US) is raising $600 million to bring a quarter million new residents to existing towns and to settlements like those being planned by T'nuat Or . JNF's "Blueprint Negev" is part of a tremendous push by Israel's government to develop the Negev. While Blueprint Negev includes money for development of the government-run Bedouin townships, the unrecognized villages where a traditional way of life is still lived are in grave danger. According to environmentalists, Blueprint Negev could also harm the desert itself: because Blueprint Negev is independent of KKL, there is no sustainability review process is in place. But because JNF-US can act independently of Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (the JNF in Israel), we also have a chance to change what happens.

    photos courtesy of Bustan, above: Wadi el-Naam; below: A-tir     [more]

      The model for development the Israeli government is again pursuing is fearsome. Al-Arakib, a village predating the state of Israel, was demolished July 27, 2010—the first such demolition since the Goldberg Commission recommended recognizing the existing Bedouin villages. was started in June 2007, when A-tir and Um al-Hiran were destroyed in a new government push to develop the Negev (see Ha'aretz article). Yatir and Hiran, the Jewish communities that will replace them, are being developed by Israel's Ministry of Housing as part of a massive effort to settle a quarter million Jews in the Negev.

    June was not the first time the government has demolished Bedouin homes or defoliated their crops. The government's policy is to "concentrate" the Bedouin in urban townships. More villages will be destroyed in order to "plant" Jews-only middle class suburbs with sprinklers and lawns. Meanwhile, the Bedouin villages where traditional culture is practiced will still have no water hook-ups, no electricity, no infrastructure. Bedouin culture is the only culture in Israel that knows about using and living in the Negev desert sustainably. Israel should be learning from the Bedouin rather than trying to uproot them.

    JNF-US has the chance to create a different model for the way the Negev should be developed, with respect for the rights and culture of all of Israel's citizens, and with utmost attention to and respect for the land. JNF-US raises hundreds of millions of dollars, more than the other JNF's combined. So far, JNF-US has chosen not to build or support any settlements that involve demolitions. (Note however that Givot Bar, established on the el-Ukbi tribe's land, is being partly funded by the JNF. ) Yet "Tnu'at Or", one of JNF's partners, has no environmental credentials. The population growth and new settlements that Israel and the JNF-US want to bring to the Negev could burden the desert ecosystem, already burdened by toxic waste, nuclear waste, and heavy industry (read more). These settements will be dependent on non-local resources and unsustainable.

    We are asking JNF-US to add millions of dollars to its budget to help all the Bedouin; to make sure that all planned and future JNF-US projects to undergo strict environmental review; and to review the cultural and human impacts on the Bedouin. JNF-US says that "Blueprint Negev" will improve the lives of the Bedouin, but they need to dedicate more than 2%–10% to this purpose. (We are still looking to JNF for help in determining the exact amount they are contributing to Bedouin communities.) JNF needs to put resources not just into the Bedouin in the government-run urban townships, where a traditional way of life is not possible, but also into the Bedouin villages.

    The only path toward improving the lives of the Bedouin is one which recognizes their villages and helps them continue to evolve their culture while living in the desert. JNF-US's Blueprint Negev is part of a broader Israeli policy that could replay the disastrous systems that were used to take away Indian land and rights in North America. But it's happening now, in our day. (Read Ben Gurion U's report here.) JNF-US could take a strong stand for sustainable development and help all of Israel choose a path of justice and sustainablity. We hope JNF's policy will help convince Israel that it must also change its policy. What would you be willing to do to help that happen?

    The solution is clear: re-develop Blueprint Negev, let's call it a "Greenprint Negev", which 1) is sustainable in terms of energy and water use, 2) opposes siting any development where it requires the demolition of Bedouin dwellings or deprives Bedouin of land they need for grazing, agriculture or living, and 3) makes the Bedouin full partners in planning.

  • TAKE ACTION: Call JNF and tell them you care about how Blueprint Negev impacts the Bedouin and the desert. You can find contact info for the regional offices of JNF-US here. The contact information for the national office is: Email: Phone: (888) JNF-0099. Their homepage is Contribute directly to JNF in Israel without going through JNF-US. Please sign our petition to get notices about future steps. Please publicize this site. Share this link:
  • You can read JNF's description of Blueprint Negev here. READ a full outline of our proposals to revise Blueprint Negev here.

    Here's the short list of modifications we've asked JNF to carry out in order to make Blueprint Negev greener. Though JNF's CEO Russell Robinson has agreed in principle to these points, he has refused to pursue further discussions or to define a timeline for implementation.

    1. Make T'nuat Or get rid of any anti-Bedouin messages in their literature and promotional media, or stop funding them. [This is the only item which JNF has done anything about. Though T'nuat Or made a few changes, they still have a long way to go.]
    2. Make a strong commitment to fund the Bedouin sector with 15-30% of funds going to Bedouin-related projects. [The current commitment according to some JNF P.R. is for $10 million, only 1.6%, of the total projected funds. However, in discussions JNF claims a much higher figure, based on including all of its proposed investment in the Abu Basma region. We don't have a complete accounting that would enable us to report an accurate figure.]
    3. Distance JNF from the demolition of Bedouin homes: Don't mention, applaud or fund projects that are associated with the destruction of Bedouin homes. Issue a statement that JNF will not be involved in such projects. [JNF already says that they are not funding such projects, but they need to make a public commitment that they will not fund them.]
    4. Examine the "Go Neutral" campaign to get rid of any exaggerated claims or hype. [We had a tentative agreement on what this should look like but JNF has not been implementing it. See "The Giving Tree".]
    5. Subject all projects to independent oversight with respect to both their environmental and social impacts. [This is absolutely critical and will require JNF funding for research and meetings.]
    You can read an outline of all our proposals here.

    Links about A-tir and the situation of the Bedouin

  • Read the article from Haaretz on A-tir along with Bustan's report, view links on A-tir and go to to find out more.
  • See Ameinu's report on the demolition of A-tir and Um al-Hiran. Read an interview with Devorah Brous, founder of Bustan, here.
  • More links on the matzav of the Bedouin: Watch video, follow links about the "JNF bill", read "Invisible Citizens", a full report on the Bedouin from the Adva Center and Ben Gurion University.
  • Read visitors' comments on this page here.

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    We have a responsibility to be fair and just to all the indigenous peoples.

    Posted by: David Rafsky at March 18, 2008 5:22 PM


    Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006