FARMERS in parts of the Negev are being targeted by Bedouin marauders who steal their possessions, their flocks, their fields and their homes.
The police do not want to intervene and the army has more pressing matters with which to concern itself.
Which is where Hashomer HaChadash come in. Meaning literally “the new guardians”, it was founded by Yoel Zilberman, son of a third generation cattle breeder who had seen his father’s business virtually destroyed by the Bedouin.
He took a year’s leave from the army to guard his family ranch day and night and eventually, in 2007, friends joined him and now there is a movement of thousands.
For some who chose to leave Tel Aviv and other Israeli conurbations to live the good life as farmers in the Negev, the dream threatened to turn sour.
At the farm owned by the HaShemesh family, its owner, Moshe, a father of nine, was beaten up four years ago and had his entire flock of 300 sheep stolen.
As a result, his son left school to join him so that the farm was never left unattended.
A HaShomer HaChadash spokesman told me: “The minute Moshe leaves his land someone will take it illegally.” They send volunteers between two and four times a week to guard farms in the Galilee and the Negev.
A caravan at the HaShemesh farm which house security volunteers|
They are armed only with cameras and often they subsidise their own activities, paying their own petrol costs which are not reimbursed.
When the police see the volunteers offering their services, it encourages them to become involved.
But as the spokesman stressed: “If we don’t show there is a Jewish presence here today, there will be no Israel.
“There is a big problem in the Negev and we have to do something before it is too late. It’s a big, big issue.
“Part of the Bedouin problem is that the country never dealt with them. The police are afraid to go into the Bedouin villages.”
She added: “While the government was protecting the borders, it may have taken its eye off the land.”
JNF UK stepped in earlier this year to fund a mobile generator, a four-wheel drive vehicle and trailer for the volunteers and plastic chairs.
JNF has also been asked to provide six caravans to house the volunteers.
“This is what we call 21st century Zionism,” said chief executive David Goodman.