The Bedouin Communities East of Jerusalem – A Planning Survey

    of the Bedouin Localities

General Maps

Wadi Abu Hindi

Al Muntar

Abu Nuwar

Wadi Jimel

Jabal Al-Baba

Wadi Al 'Awaj

Wadi Abu As-Suwan




Bir Al-Maskub

Wadi Sneysel

Khan Al-Ahmar Communities

Abu Al-Helw and Um Ad-Deif


Abu Falah




Qilt Road No 1

Wadi Qilt

Za'ataret Az Za'iem






This report on the Bedouin communities residing east of Jerusalem describes their present situation in terms of physical and planning considerations, as well as the life and daily existence of their residents. These communities have for many years faced ongoing threats of uprooting and deportation, due to a policy that seeks to concentrate all of the Bedouin communities in the region into a single community in the eastern outskirts of greater Jerusalem, near Al-E’izariya. Administratively, the area is located within Area C, as determined by the Oslo Accords, such that the residents of these Bedouin communities are under Israeli sovereignty, and the State of Israel, through the Civil Administration, is solely responsible for their living conditions and welfare and for devising acceptable solutions to ensure that their rights are upheld (see General Map -01).

The Bedouin communities scattered throughout the area between East Jerusalem and the outskirts of Jericho comprise some 7,500 residents, most of whom belong to the Jahalin tribe (‘ashirah), though some belong to the Ka’abnah tribe; both tribes share a similar history that led them to their present situation (see General Map -02). Until 1948, the Jahalin tribe resided in the area of Tel Arad in the Negev, and was thought to be one of the largest Bedouin tribes in the area. Like other Bedouin tribes in the Negev, the Jahalin became semi-nomadic, such that already in the 19th century, they were living in permanent localities and only some of the population was leading a nomadic life, which was only partial, timed with seasonal grazing purposes. Most family members carried on with their life routines in a permanent location throughout the year, while some would set out during particular seasons with the flocks to graze in more distant areas, returning at the end of the grazing season to their homes. This was a pattern that dated to the Ottoman Period, when the Bedouin tribes in the Negev first began determining and agreeing on permanent land arrangements between them, until almost complete stabilization was achieved in the 19th century. The boundaries of each tribe’s living area were defined, and partial nomadic patterns existed during the grazing seasons, mainly within the living area (“deirah”) of each tribe.

From 1948-1950, following the war, the conquest of the Negev, the military government takeover of its Bedouin residents, and the drawing up of the political borders between Israel and Jordan, members of the Jahalin tribe were pushed out of their original dwelling areas and outside the borders of the State of Israel, taking up residence in a new living area that was temporary – so they hoped at the time – in areas east of Hebron and Bethlehem. This was the first evacuation of the Jahalin, rendering them refugees with official status. In their new area of residence most of them were registered as refugees by UNRWA representatives, but they were not settled in the West Bank refugee camps under construction at the time, and during that period they hoped that they would soon be able to return to their lands, in the area of Tel Arad. The more time that elapsed, elongating their period of residence in the Hebron and Bethlehem area to three years, the clearer it became to members of the Jahalin that they would not be returning soon to their permanent localities; at the same time, tension between them and the local residents based on the lack of grazing lands and water resources increased. Therefore, they turned northwards and relocated again, this time to the hills east of Jerusalem (see General Map -03). This area was suited to the Jahalin’s living needs since it was mostly open, convenient to grazing areas and water sources, not in use by other Bedouin tribes (Sawahra from the south and Ka’abnah from the north) and apparently, familiar to the Jahalin since in the past they sometimes migrated that far in their search for grazing lands. The lands in the area were mostly under private ownership of residents of A’nata, Abu Dis, Al-E’izariya and I’sawiya, while others were state lands (see General Map -04). The Jahalin settled on them with the agreement of their owners, promising to evacuate if they were asked to do so by the latter, and with a commitment to not settle on agricultural land or erect permanent structures.

During those years, the space between East Jerusalem and Jericho and the Dead Sea was at the disposal of the Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe, and they were able to continue their customary lifestyle. They earned their livelihoods mainly from herding and trade of goods related to their flocks. Moreover, unlike today, they had sufficient options for travelling to market and selling their products in Jerusalem as well. In 1966, the Jerusalem-Jericho road was paved, improving possibilities for movement and employment. Some members of the Jahalin tribe worked on paving the road and in the local quarry, and some even leased agricultural land from residents of the villages and worked in agriculture.

 The occupation of the West Bank in 1967 had a dramatic effect on the life of the Jahalin. Some of them moved again, this time to Jordan, while those who remained in place were forced again into life under a military government that brought with it new limitations on movement, a narrowing of options for employment and livelihood, and a terrible blow to living conditions. The grazing areas shrunk considerably under a series of orders and directives, and were closed off to the Jahalin, one by one. Roads were paved, military bases and settlements were established, and wide swaths of land were declared as training areas; Wadi Qilt was declared a nature reserve in 1988. In 1975, some 3,000 hectares of the villages Al-E’izariya, At-Tur, I’sawiya, Abu Dis, Al-Khan Al-Ahmar and Nabi Musa were expropriated for the establishment of the Ma’ale Adumim  settlement. Even earlier, however, these lands had been declared an off-limits area where entry, lingering or use for all who did not live on them were forbidden.[1] At the beginning of the 1980s, a closure order was issued for all of the eastern slopes of the Judean Desert,[2] including the southeastern area of the Jahalin’s area of settlement. All of these changes limited movement and grazing options for Bedouin residents in the area, blocked access to many water sources they had been using, and impinged on their ability to raise their flocks and trade the products that were a main source of their livelihood. In addition, the army and the authorities frequently expropriated and confiscated flocks, removing them to the Jordan Valley or Beersheba, and forcing their owners to pay to redeem them and transport them back home. These maneuvers led to animal injuries and immense difficulty in administering veterinary treatment due to limitations in freedom of movement. The raising and pasturing of flocks thus grew to be become economically unfeasible for the Bedouin, forcing them to reduce their flocks and the grazing areas they had been using. The establishment of settlements in the area, beginning in the mid-1970s – Ma’ale Adumim  (1975), Mitzpe Yericho (1977), Kfar Adumim (1979), Almon (1982), Qedar (1984), Alon (1990) and  Nofey Prat (1992) – led to a reduction in the living space and movement of the Bedouin, and of the grazing lands available to them, and in some cases, even to actual uprooting. The greatest effect on the lives of the Jahalin was the establishment of Ma’ale Adumim, the largest and most central of the settlements in the area, which led directly to the removal of the Bedouin residents from the areas where the city was built, and later, where it was expanded for the addition of new neighborhoods. As one can see on Map No. 05, the Bedouin communities that had been living in the area where Ma’ale Adumim was established, ceased to exist in the mid-1970s. Following the city’s establishment, the communities began making their way south of Ma’ale Adumim, but with the expansion of the city to these areas, these new locations as well were evacuated and destroyed. As will be explained in detail below, these deportations continued until the end of the 1990s, and in effect, threats of additional deportations are still in effect to this day (see General Map -06).

As stated, prior to the establishment of Ma’ale Adumim, a massive expropriation of Palestinian lands took place, on the order of some 3,000 hectares, which earlier had been declared as a closed-off area, thereby limiting the options for Bedouin life there, including restrictions on movement and grazing. At the end of the 1970s, when construction began on the site of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, there were a number of tents there, and even two permanent buildings belonging to the Bedouin residents, which were evacuated and removed to Al-E’izariya (see General Map -07) .[3] Later, during the 1980s, as part of the construction of the settlement, additional Bedouin were evacuated from their places of residence, and moved mainly to the area of Nabi Samuel, Beit Iksa, and Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem. In the mid-1990s, after the signing of the Oslo accords, a significant change occurred in Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Jahalin tribe. The threat of deportation and evacuation from their place of residence continued, but it was now accompanied by the state’s intention to concentrate and resettle them in a new community at Al-Jabal, on the outskirts of Al-E’izariya, on lands belonging to residents of Abu Dis, near the Abu Dis waste dump site that mainly served the Jerusalem municipality. 

In July 1994, the authorities issued an evacuation order for the cluster of the Salamat family of the Jahalin tribe, which had been living in an area designated in the expansion plans for Ma’ale Adumim as “06,” slated for the construction of a new neighborhood of the settlement. Residents submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice[4] against their evacuation, and demanded that they be offered one of three possible solutions: to return to their original lands in Tel Arad; to receive alternative lands allocated to  them according to their needs on state lands that had not been confiscated from Palestinians, for example, in the area of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar or Nabi Musa; or, to permit them to continue living in their current place of residence, and to remove the threats of deportation and demolition. However, in May 1995, the HCJ rejected the petition on the claim that the petitioners did not possess land rights at the site in question, and since the lands had already been confiscated and declared as state lands, the agreements they had made with the previous land owners were invalid in any case; in effect, the HCJ permitted the deportation of the Jahalin tribe from its place of residence. Implementation of the ruling was delayed for almost two years, during which attempts were made to overturn the verdict or to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to the residents. During this period, the state formulated the solution of evacuating the Jahalin and concentrating them for permanent residence at the Al-Jabal site. The residents objected to this solution since although the state had expropriated the lands on which the permanent settlement for them had been planned, in their perspective, these lands belonged to the residents of Abu Dis, and the Bedouin refused to live there without the agreement of the original owners, who, indeed, objected to the plans for the area. The efforts to reach an agreement acceptable to the Jahalin, still residing in the “06” area and facing deportation, bore no fruit, and in January 1997, all residents – some 65 families, totaling approximately 400 people – were evacuated forcibly, their houses were demolished, and they and their property were moved to Al-Jabal. The evacuation carried on for approximately two weeks, with the participation of large army and security forces that used severe violence against the residents.

Approximately one year later, in February1998, a similar fate befell the extended Salamat family, some 35 family units residing permanently in a different area that was slated for the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim , known in the city planning maps as “07.” One morning, within a number of hours, all of the residents’ homes, sheep pens, chicken coops, and all other structures there were destroyed, and all of their possessions were taken and moved to the Al-Jabal site. The residents were ordered to move to the “resettlement site,” following the trail of their possessions, but they refused and insisted on remaining in place, and even received aid from the Palestinian Authority and UNWRA, including tents intended as a temporary solution for shelter. The residents also submitted a petition to the HCJ[5] demanding that their evacuation be halted and that they be offered an acceptable solution, along the lines of the alternatives that had been suggested in the previous petition. After approximately two weeks, the HCJ issued an interim order prohibiting the evacuation of the Jahalin from the Ma’ale Adumim area and demolition of their homes, until a permanent solution was devised to move them to a “resettlement site.”[6] In February 1999, the HCJ was presented with the agreement reached between the army authorities and the 35 families living in area “07,” which made arrangements for vacating them, allocated plots for building in Al-Jabal, arranged payment of compensation for the move and made arrangements for grazing land they could use. The residents that continued opposing the alternative site offered them, due to the issue of land ownership and the site’s proximity to the waste burial site, were forced to accept the proposed arrangement, since they understood that they would no longer be able to remain in the planned development area for Ma’ale Adumim. The move to Al-Jabal dragged on for two years until the infrastructure was prepared and homes were constructed.

In 2007, the third stage in the Al-Jabal expansion was completed, with the formal inclusion of fifty additional families in the approved area of the locality. This group comprised twelve families that had lived there prior to the establishment of the resettlement locality, and thirty-eight additional families who, over time – following many cases of house demolition and evacuation of the areas intended for the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim  – found a place for themselves at the margins of the new locality-in-the-making. These families, that had already lost the organizing framework of the community structure, social structure and space that had guided their lives until now, agreed – after a negotiation that dragged on for years regarding the character of the arrangement within the locality and the extent of compensation – to be included formally within the bounds of the locality. In a large portion of the cases, the inclusion of these families did not require moving their place of residence; rather, they were allotted plots of land, worked into the development plans for the locality, where they already were living (see General Map -08).

Today, some 1,500 residents live as 220 family units in Al-Jabal. A detailed description of the physical and planning conditions of the neighborhood and of the living conditions there appears in a joint report issued by UNRWA and Bimkom. 

The present, most recent stage in the chronicles of the evacuation and expulsion of the Jahalin, relates to the separation barrier planned for the Ma’ale Adumim region. According to the revised course of the barrier in the West Bank, as determined in April 2006, the barrier in the Ma’ale Adumim area passes 14 miles east of the Green Line, and some 11 kilometers from the municipal boundary of Jerusalem determined in 1967. The planned course creates an enclave that is larger than approximately 6,000 hectares, including most of the jurisdictional realm of Ma’ale Adumim, almost all of the area of the E1 plan, the Mishor Adumim industrial area, and the settlements of Kfar Adumim, Alon, Nofey Prat, Almon and Qedar, as well as the places in which most of the Bedouin population clusters of the Jahalin family and a number of clusters from the Ka’abnah tribe reside; however, there is clearly no intention of including the Bedouin residents within the enclave (see General Map -09). The direct effects of the separation barrier’s planned course are, first of all, that in certain places, mainly in the southeastern portion, the course of the separation barrier and the “Mirkam Hayim” road,[7] which is meant to bypass it, cut through clusters of Bedouin settlement, and as such will lead to the demolition of these clusters and the evacuation of the residents for their construction (see General Map -10). Secondly, the military authorities are increasing the pressure on Bedouin residents in the enclave with the goal of accelerating their transfer to Al-Jabal and to alternative settlement sites in the Jericho area,[8] locations that place them on the “Palestinian side” of the separation barrier. Thirdly, those who remain within the enclave will be subject to the “rule of permits” as are other residents in the “seam line”; the implication is an ensuing bureaucratic nightmare that imposes severe limitations on conducting one’s life, limiting the movement of residents and visitors to and from the localities.[9] While following a petition to the HCJ by the village councils of As-Sawahra As-Sharqiyyah and Abu Dis adjustments were made to the course of the separation barrier in its southern segment near the Qedar settlement and the area of the enclave was reduced by some 240 hectares,[10] even after the change, most of the Bedouin settlement clusters, with the exception of two,[11] remain within the area of the enclave. To date, all of the construction work for the separation barrier and the “Mirkam Hayim” road in the area has been frozen for budgetary reasons. And yet, 140.8 hectares from the lands of the villages have already been confiscated for the paving of the road, and seizure orders were issued based on the planned course of the barrier. It appears that the state, therefore, has not relinquished its intention to carry out these plans, and the threat of evacuation and expulsion remains in effect, and even strongly likely. During the past year, it became apparent that the Civil Administration indeed wanted to advance additional solutions of the Al-Jabal type. Residents of the Bedouin population concentrations in the eastern portion of the Ma’ale Adumim enclave are now being offered two alternative sites in the Jericho area, in Steiha and Nue’meh. It seems that the Civil Administration is making no attempt to learn from the difficult experience of the past, and that the new proposals are formulated and worded in a manner all too familiar to the residents. Once again, the proposed localities are sites already inhabited by other residents, the status of their land is unclear, and the plans do not take into account the needs of the population, its lifestyle, and the desires of its members, who are staunchly opposed to the proposed solutions

The present survey provides an overview of all of the Bedouin communities living within the boundaries of the Ma’ale Adumim  enclave that are under threat of evacuation and forcible transfer, and information about their areas of residence. It offers basic data for each of the localities, the life conditions there, and the main planning obstacles facing the prospect of a living arrangement there that would properly address the living conditions of existence and rights of all of the residents.

The survey is based on several months of visits and meetings in all of the communities and Bedouin localities in the area of the Ma’ale Adumim enclave; data collection and survey questionnaires in each of the locations; historical analysis of the development of Bedouin settlement in the area, based on aerial photographs from the past forty years; and an analysis of all of the existing plans prepared for the region and relevant military orders.  

The analysis opens with a brief overview of the general characteristics of the Bedouin settlement of the area east of Jerusalem, followed by a detailed survey presenting comprehensive data pertaining to each community. It concludes with a number of proposed principles for planning in the area and in the various communities that will provide appropriate solutions for the needs of the population and the manner of life they deem suitable.

B’Tselem and Bimkom (2009), The Hidden Agenda: The Establishment and Expansion Plans of Ma'ale Adummim and their Human Rights Ramifications,  p. 9.

2 Oren, Amiram, and Regev, Rafi (2008),  Eretz be-Haki: Karka u-Vitachon b-Yisrael (A Land in Khaki – Land Uses for Security Needs in Israel,), p. 110 (in Hebrew).

3 Hidden Agenda, pp. 25-26.

4 HCJ 95/2966, Mohammad Ahmad Salem Harash and 19 others v Minister of Defense.

5 HCJ 98/1242, Abdallah Salem Sa’idah Jahalin et al v Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria and the Military Commander of Judea and Samaria

6 B’Tselem (1999), On the Way to Annexation, p. 28.

7  As part of the alternative system of roads intended for the travel of Palestinians in places where travel has been forbidden to them in the regular road system or when existing roads are blocked off as the result of the separation barrier.

8 As became clear over the past year, these are new initiatives of the Civil Administration that are meeting with opposition by the Bedouin residents for whom they are intended.

9 Hidden Agenda p. 41.

10 HCJ 105/9919 and 06/2001.

11 Wadi Abu Hindi and Al-Muntar.