Gilad Ophir

Israel, 2006

Color photograph 100/150 cm

Courtesy of the artist and Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv

The objects photographed in Gilad Ophir’s works have nothing to do with time and place, just as time and place do not, and never did, dictate the life of the Bedouin*in the desert. The structures, seasonal as they may be, are neither abandoned nor ruined; on the contrary, they have an eternal aspect of cyclical use and reuse, in harmony with the change of seasons. The structure’s skeleton integrates into the landscape without taking root in it. It is as ephemeral as time itself, or the weather and the Bedouin’s way of life, culture and tradition.

*The Negev Bedouins constitute the most disadvantaged single community in Israel, in terms of per capita income, unemployment and the level of infrastructure and services in their communities. There are approximately 100,000 Bedouins living in the Negev today.

“Since the beginning of the 1950s, the State of Israel has been trying to uproot the traditional Bedouin way of life, which, for generations, was based on sheep and goat rearing and agriculture, and impose on them a way of life completely alien to their own. The only settlement framework allotted to the Bedouin population was an urban one, in seven townships the government had designed for them without consulting them in any true sense of the word. The exclusion of the Bedouins from the talks about the policy concerning their relocation is, by no means, only a formality. The authorities did not take into account their special needs deriving from their different culture and way of life. There isn’t any other population in Israel on which a unified residential standard was imposed, without giving it any alternative choices. Most of the Bedouins have long abandoned their traditional tents and moved into tin and wooden huts to find shelter from the scorching summer heat and the freezing winter cold. “A special unit in Israel’s Ministry of Interior is in charge of enforcing the provisions of the Planning and Construction Law in these townships and filing suits against residents who fail to comply with them. The country’s courts of law impose on the Bedouins heavy fines, order them to demolish their own homes, and even send them to jail. Recently, the Knesset has voted against a bill proposing to instruct Israel’s courts of law to refrain from ordering the demolition of any illegal building the occupants of which have no alternative dwelling place. Thus, even though Bedouins living in unrecognized clusters have no alternative dwellings, a fact the authorities acknowledge, suits are continually being filed against them, and the courts keep issuing demolition orders for illegally built structures.”

*(From “Rights, Not Sufferance, Social Rights in Israel”, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s Report [Hebrew], December 1997).