‘It feels like the Wild West’: Bedouin crime runs rampant in the Negev

“They are doing whatever they want,” says the father of a 10-year-old raped during a home robbery.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The father of a 10-year-old girl raped over a week ago and a half ago on Sabbath eve in a Negev community by Bedouin thieves expressed his despair over the lawlessness in the region, which the authorities seem unable to contain, in an interview with Walla news Sunday.

Three suspects, aged 16, 17 and 21, have been arrested and are suspected of a whole series of burglaries as well as the horrific rape. The father said that in general, the Jewish residents in the area feel they have been “abandoned” for many years.

“We are wounded to the depths of our souls,” he said. “There has to be a change in the country.”

“We’re not controlling the ground,” he continued. “They are doing whatever they want.”

According to the father, the police are not to blame for the situation. Saying that they “are doing a good job,” he alluded to problems on the legal side of such cases.

“They go into peoples’ houses, rape girls in their own beds, and if I would shoot him I’d now be in jail,” he said, referring to a case in November when Arad resident Arie Schiff shot and killed one of three Bedouin in the act of stealing his pickup truck.

The Southern District Attorney’s office charged Schiff with causing “reckless death,” which carries a sentence of up to 12 years imprisonment. He is currently under house arrest in Eilat, awaiting trial.

Schiff’s family and neighbors are outraged over the charge and blame the police as well.

“Like in the whole Negev, like the whole southern region, Arad today unequivocally suffers from crime at the hands of the Bedouin sector, and there’s no law enforcement, no one does anything,” Shlomo Tabachnik, head of the town’s central bus station, told Walla at the end of December. “The citizens suffer, and they suffer in silence.”

“I think that if I had a gun, I’d act exactly like Aryeh did,” he added. “The man doesn’t have insurance, five times his car has been stolen, what insurance company would even cover him?”

“The police are not doing the job, that’s a fact. They don’t get to the incident in time, only way afterward. A thief has to know that if he comes here, he’s in danger of being arrested and will be detained for a long time, and also that he could be hurt and even lose his life. That should be clear here.”

Schiff’s daughter, Einat, pointed an accusing finger at the state, which she says does not protect a man who had an army career, volunteered with the police for 20 years, and believed in coexistence with the neighboring Bedouin.

“This is a 70-year-old man. He should not have been detained nor have a sword hanging over his head,” she said. “For me, the criminal is not my father – he is the victim.”

“The state was supposed to protect him better,” she added. “This could have happened to any of us in Arad, such things happen in the Negev. The situation could have been reversed and then Dad would have been in the hospital, or worse.”

“Here people live with a gun under their pillows,” she said. “This situation can’t go on like this…. It feels like the Wild West.”