In February 2012, the UK Task Force led its second study trip to Israel to learn about Bedouin communities in the Negev. Based in Be’er Sheva, over fifty representatives from the Jewish community participated in a tour of Bedouin settlements, visited civil society projects and took part in panel discussions with leading interlocutors within the Bedouin community, the public sector and the civil society sphere.
Led by Co-Chairs of the Task Force, Douglas Krikler and Trevor Pears, participants on the trip included: Rabbis from across the synagogue movements and representatives from BICOM, British Friends of Neve-Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, The Federation of Zionist Youth, Habonim Dror, The Jewish Leadership Council, The Rayne Foundation, RSY-Netzer, The Samuel Sebba Charitable Trust, The Sigrid Rausing Trust and Union of Jewish Students. Also on the trip were representatives from the UK Task Force Executive Committee, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, New Israel Fund UK, Pears Foundation and UJIA.
The group was provided with an active on-the-ground learning experience to introduce them to some of the key issues relating to Bedouin communities in the Negev and the steps being taken by civil society organisations and the government to reduce inequalities, break down cultural barriers and promote social cohesion. The trip was organised according to four key themes: land issues, service provision, Jewish-Bedouin relations and opportunities for the future.
The programme included tours of unrecognised villages, the recognised Abu Basma villages and government-planned Bedouin towns. Participants visited Bedouin empowerment projects and attended meetings with leading civil society activists, academics and political and diplomatic figures including Minister Benny Begin MK and Ambassador Matthew Gould. Other notable events included a dinner with Professor Amos Oz and a discussion with former Israeli cabinet minister, Rabbi Michael Melchior.
The trip aimed to inspire participants to work with each other and Israeli partners to increase engagement and understanding of the Bedouin communities in the Negev on their return. Co-chairs of the UK Task Force, Douglas Krikler and Trevor Pears stated that: “The breadth of participation on the UK Task Force 2012 study trip shows the importance the British Jewish community ascribes and the effort we are prepared to commit together to understanding what is unquestionably one of the most significant and complex challenges facing Israeli society today.”