Area known as “Al Araqeeb” (Mandrake river) is located north of Beer-Sheba. From the Ottoman period (19th century) lands in the area were registered as state lands destined for agricultural use. But starting from the beginning of the 21st century a group of Bedouins belonging to Abu Madiam family living Rahat started to claim the ownership over the lands in the area.
The plaintiffs whose case has been rejected in court time after time claim that they had settled in the “Al Araqeeb” area already during the Ottoman period and that even their fathers were buried in the ancient cemetery known also as “Al Araqeeb” which is found in the area.
Authorities on their part claim that there has never been a permanent Bedouin settlement in the area. And even the Ottoman authorities although permitted the clan members to graze their sheep and cows on this land, but has never given them an ownership over it. A longstanding land dispute aggravated in 1999 when the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) asked the state permission to plant trees in the area. As a result Bedouins from Rahat and other places started to erect different constructions in the area and farm the land they claim to possess – and it is a mere breach of the law and court rulings that require them to vacate the territory.
Since then the Bedouins claiming land ownership in Al Araqeeb continue to erect different construction in the area while The Israel Land Administration (ILA) continues to evict them. As of April 2011 ILA has evicted the area of Al Araqeeb 37 times.
The name “Al Araqeeb” in Arabic is the plural form of “Arkub”. There is a similar word “Akuv” in Hebrew which means a hill or a mount (it is mentioned in Tanakh – Yeshayahu, 40: “and the crooked terrain shall become a plain”). The name both in single and in plural is quite common in the region, and there are several areas bearing this name in Israel and Jordan, including the aforementioned area.