A stench of rubbish wafts over the Palestinian town of As Sawahira from the al-Abdali dump. The vast tip sprawls over an excavated hillside on the outskirts of the town and receives a constant stream of trucks carrying waste from nearby Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities are proposing to relocate 2,300 Bedouins from the surrounding hills to this site as part of their push to resolve "the Bedouin problem". Simultaneously, plans are proceeding through the Israeli parliament this month to move a further 90,000 Bedouin from their ancestral land in the Negev desert in Israel's south to government-planned townships.
The Israeli administration argues that a move to purpose-built communities will lift the indigenous population from unacceptable depths of poverty. Across Israeli-controlled territory, Bedouin communities argue that their culture, along with centuries-old ties to land, is being swept aside to make way for Jewish expansion.
Around 250 Bedouins from the Jahalin group already live on the fringes of the As Sawahira dump, moved here by the Israeli authorities 15 years ago from land now occupied by the Ma'ale Adumim settlement. Their modest homes and huts are overlooked by piles of rubbish on one side and the Kfar Adumim settlement on the other.
"I'm sure the dump is very damaging for our health, but the Israelis moved us here – we had no choice," says Abu Jahalin, 70. He has heard of the plans to move thousands more Bedouins to the dump. He points to the proposed site with his walking stick, explaining that it will run all the way from the top of the hill, where his sheep graze, to the piles of rubbish. more