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  • רהט
  • راهط
Official logo of Rahat
Coat of arms
Rahat is located in Israel
District Southern
Founded 1972
 • Type City (from 1994)
 • Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban[1]
 • Total 19,586 dunams (19.586 km2 or 7.562 sq mi)
Population (2014)[2]
 • Total 60,400
Name meaning Calm, comfort

Rahat (Hebrew: רַהַט, Arabic: راهط‎) is a predominantly Bedouin city in the South District of Israel. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), at the end of December 2014 the city had a total population of 60,400[3] (53,095 in December 2010[2] and 51,700 in December 2009[4]). As such, it is the largest Bedouin settlement in the world, and the only one in Israel to have city status.

It is one of seven Bedouin townships in the Negev desert with approved plans and developed infrastructure (other six are: Hura, Tel as-Sabi (Tel Sheva), Ar'arat an-Naqab (Ar'ara BaNegev), Lakiya, Kuseife (Kseife) and Shaqib al-Salam (Segev Shalom).[5]


  • Meaning of the name 1
  • Design 2
  • Demographics 3
  • History 4
  • Present day 5
    • Economy 5.1
      • Income 5.1.1
    • Culture 5.2
    • Higher education 5.3
    • Health and public facilities 5.4
    • Transportation 5.5
  • Outstanding representatives of the community 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Meaning of the name

In Arabic, "rahat" means "relief" or "groups" (it is also a Muslim name used mostly for males). In Hebrew, "rahat" means "fountain."


The city has a total of 33 neighborhoods. All but one of the neighborhoods consist entirely of separate Bedouin clans but one is a mixed-clan neighborhood. Between every neighborhood, there is a wadi. The city also has a market, public and commercial services, neighborhood parks, public areas, women's employment centers, children's play areas, and several mosques.[6][7]


According to CBS, in 2001 the ethnic makeup of the city was almost completely Arab Bedouin without significant Jewish population (see also: Population groups in Israel), making it the largest Bedouin settlement in Israel. Members of several Bedouin family clans reside in Rahat: Al-Qrenawi, Tarabin, Al-Huzeil, Al-Tayaha, Al-Azazma, Al-Jubur, Al-Tawarah, Howeitat, AbuZayed etc. Rahat's society is considered as a young one - more than a half of its residents are under the age of 18.[8]

According to CBS, in 2001 there were 16,300 males and 16,100 females. The population of the city was spread out with 65.2% 19 years of age or younger, 15.8% between 20 and 29, 12.0% between 30 and 44, 4.7% from 45 to 59, 0.9% from 60 to 64, and 1.4% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate in 2001 was 5.9%.

According to CBS, at the end of 2010 there were 26,700 males and 26,400 females. Some 60.4% of Rahat population were 19 years old or younger, 15.4% between 20 and 29, 15.3% between 30 and 44, 5.9% from 45 to 59, 1% from 60 to 64, and 2% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate decreased significantly - to 2.7%.[3]

Population 1983 1995 2000 2006 2010 2014
Number 9,200 22,456 30,653 40,000 53,095 60,400


Archaeological site in Rahat, going back 1600 years
Neighborhood and the main mosque of Rahat

The region of the city formerly owned by Al-Tayaha tribe (Al-Hezeel clan) until the year 1972 the town was called "Al-Hezeel" (Arabic: الهزيل‎) before changing the name.

In 1972 Rahat was considered by the government of Israel, as a new settlement for Bedouins who lived in the surrounding area without permanent domicile. Until 1980, Rahat was part of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council and from then on (until 1994) it was a local council (administered by a private board until 1989). In 1994 it was recognized as a city—the first Bedouin city in Israel.

Present day

Beduin women from Rahat hold up posters in favor of the Israeli-Arab peace process, 1995

The process of sedentarization is full of hardships for any nation, since it means a shift from one way of life to another—a transition from wandering to permanent residence, and Bedouins whose society is based on tradition are no exception. As a result of rapid and unexpected changes of the social infrastructure Bedouins faced many difficulties, primarily related to the integration issues.

The rate of unemployment remains high in Bedouin townships, as well as crime level.[9] School through age 16 is mandatory by law, but the vast majority of the population does not receive a high school education. Women are discriminated in the patriarchal-type Bedouin society.[10] There is another serious problem of trespassing on state lands and building unrecognized Bedouin settlements having no municipal status and facing demolition orders.[11]

Rahat is one of several flagship projects aimed at improving life for the Negev Bedouin. Unlike illegal villages with scarce access to water, electricity and services, this city provides the residents with all their basic needs. Nevertheless, in December 2009, the town was ranked low (1 out of 10) in socio-economic standing. Only 46.4% of grade twelve students are eligible to graduate from high school.


The township is situated close to [14] primarily aimed at Bedouin women.

In 2007 the Center for Jewish-Arab economic development initiated an entrepreneurship and employment project for Rahat residents. Approximately 40 Bedouin women took part in it and received training in job search and computer skills and business management. 12 of them have launched their own businesses (shops, clothing, hairdressing, restaurant and catering, sewing).[15]


According to CBS, as of 2009 the average income in Rahat was ILS 3,961 (compared to the average national income of 7,070). In 2000 the mean monthly wage for a salaried worker in the city was ILS 3,008, a real change of -0.8% over the course of 2000. Salaried males had a mean monthly wage of ILS 3,502 (a real change of 0.1%) versus ILS 1,394 for females (a real change of -10.7%). The mean income for the self-employed was 5,198. There were 277 residents who received government welfare, and 10,906 people who received an income guarantee. In 2000 in the city there were 3,983 salaried workers and 437 are self-employed.


School in Rahat

There is a number of organizations carrying out different activities aimed at supporting and facilitating entrepreneurship in Israel's South in order to further integrate the 210,000 Bedouins living in the Negev into Israel's mainstream economy.[14] They are primarily aimed at Bedouin women.

Twenty Arab-Bedouin women from the towns of Rahat, Lakiya, Tel Sheva, Segev Shalom, Kuseife and Rachma participated in a sewing course for fashion design at the Amal College in Beer Sheva, including lessons on sewing and cutting, personal empowerment and business initiatives.[16]

There is a volunteer program to teach English to the Bedouin schoolchildren of Rahat.[17]

Social and Environmental Leadership Program was established in Rahat in the mid-2000s, initiated by young local residents.[8]

Higher education

Since the city of Beersheva is in close proximity to Rahat, most Bedouin students from Rahat study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, some also at Sapir Academic College in Sderot. Soon a new Harvard University campus will be established in Rahat - inside Idan HaNegev Industrial Park. It will be the first campus built in this Bedouin city.[18] Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will oversee the new campus' operations, and it will be considered a BGU branch.

Health and public facilities

Rahat as a city has a number of public services, including medical services, schooling, labor, shopping, etc. There are branches of several health funds (medical clinics) in Rahat: Leumit, Clalit, Maccabi and several perinatal (baby care) centers Tipat Halav. In 2004 a new police station was opened here, it has around 70 staff policemen. There is a community center in Rahat with a number of clubs for youth.


In June 2007 a new Lehavim-Rahat Railway Station was opened. It serves both the Bedouin community of Rahat and the suburbs of Lehavim. It made it more accessible for the local residents to work and study in Beer Sheba and other parts of the country.

There are buses operated by Egged and Galim bus cooperatives passing through Rahat.[19] For a long period of time there were only transit buses in the city, but in 2009 the bus transportation system was substantially improved and buses started to enter the city.[20]

Outstanding representatives of the community

  • Faiz Abu Sahiban, Rahat Mayor
  • Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin imprisoned by Egypt for illegal border crossing[21]
  • Dr. Alean Al-Krenawi, PhD, is Dean and Professor at Memorial University's School of Social Work and a former chair of the Spitzer Department of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.[22]
  • Suleiman Al-Shafhe, a journalist, in the past a Channel 2 reporter covering the Palestinian issues[23]
  • Ahmed Alansasra, an artist[24]
  • Kamla Abu Zeila, a Bedouin female filmmaker creating socially aware documentaries[25][26]
  • Yusra Abu-Kaff, a Bedouin filmmaker[26][27]
  • Mai Alfrawna, a filmmaker[26]
  • Morad Alfrawna, a filmmaker from Rahat, took part in the "Back and Forth" cinematic project[26]
  • Ahmad Amrani, one of the leaders of the Green movement. In 2002, established “Green Rahat,” the first environmental organization in Rahat to deal with the city’s environmental problems.[28]

See also


  1. ^ PM Netanyahu meets with Negev Bedouin mayors MFA, November 3, 2011
  2. ^ a b "CBS. Statistic abstract of Israel 2015. POPULATION AND DENSITY PER SQ. KM. IN LOCALITIES NUMBERING 5,000 RESIDENTS AND MORE ON 31 XII 2014(1)" (PDF).  
  3. ^ a b Rahat, city profile (Hebrew)
  4. ^ "Table 3 - Population of Localities Numbering Above 2,000 Residents and Other Rural Population" (PDF).  
  5. ^ State of Israel. Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. List of Issues to be taken up in Connection with the Consideration of Israel's Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of Israel (CEDAW/C/ISR/4 and CEDAW/C/ISR/5)
  6. ^ The Bedouin of the Negev
  7. ^ A Bedouin welcome
  8. ^ a b Environmental Education in Rahat
  9. ^ Blueprint Negev. Working with Bedouin communities
  10. ^ Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder. The activism of Bedouin women: Social and political resistance Ben Gurion University
  11. ^ Bedouins in the State of Israel Knesset official site
  12. ^ Rahat Industrial Zone
  13. ^ Idan Hanegev Industrial Park
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Bedouin projects. Rahat
  16. ^ Economic Empowerment. Arab-Bedouin Fashion Design
  17. ^ Mary Ann Lewis. On the volunteering program in Rahat
  18. ^ Harvard University makes aliyah
  19. ^ Buses Rahat - Lines List which pass through Rahat
  20. ^ After years of anticipation, residents of Rahat report enthusiastically about the new public transportation system that recently began service in the city
  21. ^ Report: Prisoner swap deal involving Ouda Tarabin to be signed Saturday
  22. ^ School of Social Work. Dr. Alean Al-Krenawi
  23. ^ Reports From a Tightrope
  24. ^ Information Center for Israeli art. Ahmed Alansasra
  25. ^ Israeli film maker helps put Bedouin woman behind the camera
  26. ^ a b c d Back and Forth. About the film A cinematic project by Uri Rosenwaks
  27. ^ Daniella Cheslow. Getting behind the camera The Jerusalem Report
  28. ^ The People leading the Green Movement

External links

  • Rahat Photo Gallery
  • Back and Forth movie - an independent cinematic project in Rahat guided by Uri Rosenwaks including four documentaries made by four Bedouin film directors
  • Bedouin of the Negev
  • Rahat city General facts about Rahat, photos
  • Lands of the Negev, a short film presented by Israel Land Administration describing the challenges faced in providing land management and infrastructure to the Bedouins in Israel's southern Negev region
  • Seth Frantzman, Presentation to Regavim about Negev
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