“Jackson Bentley: What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert? T.E. Lawrence: It’s clean” – Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Negev desert has been home to nomads, Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, Byzantines, Nabateans, Ottomans and Israelis.
In 1946 and 1947, David Ben-Gurion was eager for the Negev be part of the new state of Israel. Ben -Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, saw the dry, sparsely populated land as Israel’s frontier. But how could he ensure the diplomats viewed it as part of Israel?
…after sunset following the fast of Yom Kippur, 6 October 1946, eleven groups of pioneers reached their eleven destinations; eleven settlements were established simultaneously on this night and the map of Jewish settlement was changed forever.
These eleven settlements came to be known as the 11 “Points” of the Negev and comprised Kedma and Gal-On in the north east (close to Kfar Menachem and Gat); Shuval and Mishmar HaNegev, a little further south but still to the east; Nevatim and Hatzerim, near Beer Sheva, and Urim to the west, near Gevulot and, finally, the four “Points”: Tekuma, Be’eri, Kfar Darom and Nirim, bordering the Gaza Strip…
The Jerusalem Post returns:
…their secret operation in large letters on the front page: “They reclaimed the Negev”…The population of the Negev at the time was about 50,000, mostly Beduin, and the Morrison-Grady plan of that year to resolve the issue of Palestine allocated the northern Negev to the Arabs, while the southern Negev would remain part of the British Mandate. The heads of the Yishuv decided they must do something to change the political reality on the ground. After different plots of land throughout the Negev were painstakingly purchased privately by Jews and by the Jewish National Fund, an operation was planned by the Jewish Agency to settle those patches, thereby raising the chances the Negev would be included within the borders of the future Jewish state….
Hours after the makeshift huts had been erected and covered with roofs, British officers appeared, recalls Yossi Tzur, one of the first residents of Kibbutz Shoval, a few kilometers away from Mishmar Hanegev. They looked around, he says, seemingly mesmerized by the sudden presence of the settlements, and continued on their way. None of the settlements was ever removed by the British, and today all of them but one are still standing – during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, Kfar Darom was evacuated by order of the Israeli government.
Israel’s Documents recalls:
In 1954 he [Ben-Gurion] resigned his post as prime minister and went to join the newly founded kibbutz of Sdeh Boker deep in the Negev, to prove that settling the Negev was more important even than leading the government. He returned the following year, though when he finally did retire, it was back to Sdeh Boker.