Jewish Settlements Squeeze Bedouin Enclave In the hills east of Jerusalem, a Palestinian Bedouin tribe lives in tents and huts between two Jewish settlements. Unable to bus their children to nearby schools, they invited an aid group to help them build a school. But Israeli authorities have slated the primitive buildings for demolition.
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Jewish Settlements Squeeze Bedouin Enclave

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Jewish Settlements Squeeze Bedouin Enclave

Jewish Settlements Squeeze Bedouin Enclave

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And let's go from the hills of northern Iraq to the hills east of Jerusalem, the West Bank. That's where a Palestinian Bedouin tribe lives in tents and ramshackle huts wedged between a couple of expanding Jewish settlements. They're unable to bus their children to nearby schools, so they invited a group to help them build their own school on a Bedouin budget: four small buildings made of used tires and mud.

But for the Israeli authorities, this was a problem. They've objected and have slated the buildings for demolition. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON: They're practically invisible to the cars and trucks whizzing up and down the steep road from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Dead Sea: small clusters of Bedouin tents, housing families of shepherds with the occasional camel and always plenty of children.

(Soundbite of children chattering)

KENYON: A knot of boys and girls churns up the dust with an impromptu soccer game as the summer sun bakes the red clay soil. On the hill to the southwest is the leading edge of the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, with its gleaming white stone apartment buildings, landscaped yards and conveniences such as running water that the Bedouin can only dream of. On the hill to the Northeast, another settlement: Kefar Adumim. Both have been demanding permission to build more units to accommodate their growing populations.

Mohammed Jahalin beckons visitor out of the late morning heat and into the shade of one of their newly completed school buildings. A deceptively simple, one room structure made by stacking used tires filled with dirt and gravel, and then packing mud walls around them with a simple plaster finish. Gaps near the roof allow hot air to escape. Jahalin says many of the families here were displaced from the Negev desert during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Until recently, they sent their children to schools in nearby towns. But then the problem started, sometimes monetary, sometimes political.

Mr. MOHAMMED JAHALIN: (Through Translator): The buses were being told by the Israeli authorities not to come to us. The taxis were being told by the Israeli authorities not to come to us. Therefore, we decided to build, out of material that is not costly, with the cooperation of an Italian NGO.

KENYON: Valerio Marazzi, an architect with the group Vento Di Terra, or Wind of the Earth, became excited by the idea of copying a model he had seen in Latin America - using old tires and mud to create a cheap but stable structure.

Mr. VALERIO MARAZZI (Architect, Vento Di Terra): (unintelligible) the silty clay soil.

Unidentified Man: Silty clay soil?

Mr. MARAZZI: Silty clay. With a little bit of mud, it becomes very strong and very good, very easy to use. And so we fill up the tires with the soil and then we plaster everywhere.

(Soundbite of children playing)

KENYON: European and Israeli volunteers are on hand to help provide labor for the project. As simple as they are, the four new buildings stand in sharp contrast to the weather-beaten tents and makeshift shelters people live in here. In earlier days, these huts might have been covered with traditional goat hair. Now, strips of metal roofing or plastic tarps do the job.

Yehiel Greniman with Rabbis for Human Rights says someone - he suspects someone from one of the settlements on the hills above alerted the Israeli authorities to the new buildings. And they were quickly declared illegal.

Mr. YEHIEL GRENIMAN (Rabbis for Human Rights): I don't see the logic of why we need to move the Bedouins from here. And why we can't just work to make their lives better. And if anything, this is something that the Palestinian Authority and Israel should cooperate. Instead, they get kind of the runaround, bureaucratic runaround.

KENYON: Greniman says all the residents here have been given either a notice that their dwelling is illegal or a demolition order. And that goes for these new school buildings as well. Rabbis for Human Rights has also been involved with another group of 2,000 Bedouin from the same tribe who used to live where the Maale Adumim settlement now stands. Greniman says they were shifted to the outskirts of a nearby Arab town next to the municipal dump.

Mr. GRENIMAN: It's clear to me that the Bedouin here need a solution. And putting them in a slum next to the city dump isn't a solution. And I think that it's a crime, that after so long, now, that they're not really nomadic anymore. They've been here 40 years, in that spot there. They don't have running water, they don't have basic, basic facilities, and it's time that they did.

KENYON: For now, as international leaders wonder if the U.S.-Israeli dispute over Jewish settlement expansion will block a resumption of Mid East peace efforts, residents here wonder if they'll ever get the chance to use their new school or if they'll have to move again - this time to make room for more settlers.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, on the West Bank.

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