Arab settlement during the Ottoman Era in the Galilee region featured a model of agricultural farming in which a single family living alone on one farm provided for itself, fulfilling all of its economic needs through field crops and shepherding sheep. These one-family farms gradually developed into centers in which extended families with a number of households gathered, and were required to financially support every individual living there. These farms were typically composed of modest, stone buildings with one or two rooms at most, with no infrastructure or ways to access them.
This settlement model of agricultural farms also characterized the Bedouin population as it began to permanently settle in the Galilee at the beginning of the 20th century, a process that accelerated during the time of the British Mandate. The different Bedouin tribes settled in defined spaces and distinguished themselves from other tribes according to their familial relations. Naturally, the size of the tribe dictated its spatial layout, and particularly large tribes settled in several areas at great distances from each other. The incredible draw of this area on the founders of the family farms relative to other locations, and especially the ability of children of the families to earn a living from working the land and absorb new people, contributed to the establishment over time of the original farm economically and socially. As a result, the farms grew into small settlements and communities living in those areas were able to remain there for generations.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, many small settlements in the North were left without official recognition or status. Poor accessibility, difficulties sustaining livelihoods, lack of infrastructure, and of course the impossibility of building new houses in accordance with the law, led some residents to abandon their family farms in favor of slowly moving to larger neighboring communities.
As a result of struggles that took place over the years, some settlements succeeded in becoming recognized and planned. Still, there remain over thirty settlements from the Northern border to the center of the country in which an Arab locality, the majority of which are Bedouin, is not recognized by the state and therefore is not entitled to regulated planning. These settlement points usually consist of a number of old stone houses–remnants of the earliest form of the settlements–and alongside them a number of huts and shacks without building permits that fail to satisfy the living needs of the residents, as well as a shelter structure for their animals. In the absence of building permits, residents are not able to renovate homes that are falling apart; in the absence of recognition, these homes have no connection to running water, sewage systems, or electricity.
Many families live in unregulated settlements where their ancestors bought land in order to earn a livelihood for themselves and build their homes. These settlements developed gradually, without planning or permits from that era’s authorities, and evolved as their residents transitioned from nomadic to settled life a hundred years ago. These unregulated settlements are primarily located in the Galilee, but some can also be found in the Wada Ara region, and in the center of the country. The majority of them have only a few dozen residents that belong to the same extended family, and amount to a total of 3,500-4,000 citizens of the state living without status, without an address, as citizens but without the rights that citizens enjoy. Some of them live in sight of recognized, regulated, and well-maintained settlements. Close, but outside.