Bedouin 'dream comes true' with solar field

By Nathan Jeffay, February 23, 2012

For decades, Israel's Bedouins have been searching for ways to end their longstanding poverty. But it may turn out that they have been staring, or rather squinting, at a solution all along.

The majority of Israel's Bedouins live in the scorchingly hot Negev desert, and now they are starting to harness the power of the sun to make money. Israel's Public Utility Authority has just granted a license for the first Bedouin solar field, which will be built over the next year in the village of the Tarabin clan, in the north-west Negev.

The Tarabin field will cover 37 acres and pump out eight megawatts of electricity per hour of daylight. It is being established by Arava Power, a company which opened its first field on Kibbutz Ketura last year and hopes to set up solar installations across the Negev. It has deals with four other Bedouin clans that await approval from the Public Utility Authority.

The company has significant investment from abroad, and has secured US administration funding to cover 80 per cent of installation costs for the Tarabin field. Arava Power President Yosef Abramowitz said that using solar installations to help develop Bedouin society is part of his company's social responsibility vision. "The idea is to transform the economic and social reality of the Bedouin in the state of Israel and take them from the poorest segment to have billions of dollars invested in the sector," he said.

Mr Abramowitz is calling for a government-imposed quota that would require licenses for a quarter of Israel's solar production to go to Bedouins.

The idea is to transform economic reality for the Bedouin

He argues that this is necessary because, with their nomadic history, it is often more complicated for Bedouins to provide the necessary proofs of land ownership than for Jews, so without a quota they can get left behind in planning

Haj Musa Tarabin, a leader of the Tarabin clan, said that its field is a "dream come true".

Faiz Abu Seheban, the mayor of Israel's largest Bedouin locale, the city of Rahat, said: "Solar energy helps everyone - Jews, Bedouins and others, and co-operating for the good of the environment and for a joint business venture helps build towards peace."

Last updated: 1:50pm, February 23 2012