Adalah demands Israel provide urgent coronavirus health services to unrecognized Bedouin villages

Magen David Adom paramedics charged with conducting coronavirus tests, but Bedouin citizens of Israel residing in unrecognized villages in Naqab (Negev) lack access to MDA emergency medical services.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter on 22 March 2020 to Israeli authorities demanding access to essential medical services for more than 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel residing in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) region in southern Israel. These citizens, now facing the growing threat of coronavirus, are not receiving urgent care from Israel’s national emergency medical service.


Israeli Health Ministry guidelines prohibit patients with fever and respiratory symptoms from leaving the home, except in medical emergencies. After the symptoms associated with coronavirus develop, Israel’s Magen David Adom national emergency medical service (MDA), under the guidance of the district physician, is supposed to reach out to the patient for an at-home examination and – if necessary – evacuation to hospital.


Magen David Adom paramedics preparing to treat coronavirus victims in February 2020. (Photo: Magen David Adom/Facebook)


However, residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab lack access to MDA urgent care services.


In his urgent letter to Israeli Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf stressed that, in light of the failure to provide essential MDA services to Bedouin citizens of the state living in the unrecognized villages, the question arises as to how the ministry-mandated coronavirus procedure may be implemented.


Adalah demands the Israeli Health Ministry immediately address this urgent public health issue stemming from deficiencies in providing equitable health services to the residents of unrecognized villages in the Naqab desert region.


Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf commented:


"Israel has for years maintained a policy of neglect and discrimination when it came to providing routine health services – as well as emergency medical services – to Bedouin citizens of Israel in the unrecognized villages. In light of the coronavirus crisis, this state policy has now resulted in an immediate danger to local residents and the general public alike.”


Bedouin children playing in an unrecognized village in the Naqab region in southern Israel. (Photo by Mati Milstein)


CLICK HERE to read the letter [Hebrew]



(Photo: Magen David Adom/Facebook)