Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jewish Settlers Crowd Bedouin, Goats

MAALE ADUMIM, West Bank -- Only a few meters of desert separate them, but they are worlds apart -- the Bedouin, who live in goat-hair tents, and the Jewish settlers whose modern apartment blocks are sprouting at a rapid rate.

Now the settlement of Maale Adumim, the largest in the West Bank, is set to swallow up the land where the Jahalin tribe of 45 families has been grazing 14,000 goats for the past few decades.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the Jahalin have to leave by the end of August, and bulldozers and cranes are already tearing into the barren slopes near the Jahalin's encampments.

Members of the tribe said Tuesday the alternate site offered by the Israeli government is not acceptable.

They said the rocky hill is only 500 meters from Jerusalem's garbage dump, lacks water and would not sustain their herd.

"We are staying put. Even the bulldozers won't be able to move us from here," Khalil Abu Ghali Jahalin said Tuesday during a protest meeting attended by some 30 supporters, including members of PLO leader Yasser Arafat's Cabinet and Israeli and foreign peace activists.

The visitors sat on thin mattresses arranged in a large square on the floor of one of the Jahalin tents, some looking out of place in their Western clothes.

Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian minister of municipal affairs and a senior peace negotiator with Israel, attacked the new government of hardline leader Benjamin Netanyahu, but had no practical advice for the Bedouin.

"This government has chosen settlements rather than the peace process, to create facts on the ground," Erakat said, speaking to reporters in English, a language most Jahalin don't understand.

However, it was the previous administration of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres that authorized the construction boom in Maale Adumim.

The late Rabin, who had launched the peace talks with the Palestinians, told parliament last year he hoped to eventually annex the area around the settlement.

The mayor of Maale Adumin, which lies only 10 kilometers east of Jerusalem, said last week he expected to double the number of residents to 40,000 within four years, and that further down the road the target population was 100,000.

The semi-nomadic Jahalin used to roam the southern Negev Desert, cultivating land and grazing sheep.

However, shortly after Israel's creation, they were moved by the Israeli army to the West Bank, which was under Jordanian control at the time.

Many of the Jahalin settled in the Judean Desert east of Jerusalem. When the West Bank was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, the Bedouin once again came under Israeli control, and over the years, especially with the founding of Maale Adumim in 1982, the tribe's dwelling sites began to shrink.

The Jahalin, who number about 2,000 in the Maale Adumim area, are among tens of thousands of Bedouin living in Israeli-controlled areas. Many Bedouin have resettled in homes over the years.