Indigenous Bedouin, the State and Gray Planning: The Case of Upgrading Road 31 in Israel

  • Batya Roded Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Department of Geography and Environmental Development
  • Arnon Ben-Israel Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Department of Geography and Environmental Development
  • Avinoam Meir
Keywords: Gray space, planning, roads, state, Bedouin, informal mechanism


We raise two issues: gray spacing may serve the interests of established planning processes despite their inherent contradiction; roads are spatial entities and immanent part of planning processes, but have been quite marginal in planning theory literature. We studied Road 31 in the northern Negev with its several dozen unrecognized indigenous Bedouin settlements as gray space. The state initiated a massive road upgrade project. Neither planning officials nor the contractor pursued public participation. The upgrade interfered seriously in Bedouin life and they refused to evacuate. Desperate to expedite the project, the contractor practiced an informal planning mechanism which facilitated the project. Despite the formal policy of non-recognition, only by leaving the informal reality intact could the conflict be resolved satisfactorily. Paradoxically thus, informality may facilitate efficient mechanisms benefiting both sides. This carries conceptual implications for understanding planning of gray space, as well as understanding the special role of roads in this unique indigenous system.


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