WHO WE ARE
The Sayyid Al-Harumi initiative aims to harness the potential of solar energy to strengthen and empower the Bedouin community by improving access to energy. Wider and better access to energy will result in creating jobs, generating active and passive sources of income and strengthening Bedouin land rights in the Negev. In doing so, we deploy a hybrid model of climate mitigation and adaptation practices, in the spirit of a ‘just transition’, meaning that the benefits of the transition to clean energy are equitably distributed. The initiative was designed under the leadership and guidance of the late MK, Sayyid Al-Harumi.
Al-Harumi was born in the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom in January of 1972. After receiving a BA in physics from Hebrew University and a teaching certificate from Ben-Gurion University, he returned to Segev Shalom to teach high school. In 2002, he began his service as Secretary General of the Arab List until 2014, while sitting on his local council from 2004 to 2008. In 2014, he was elected Deputy Chairman of the Arab List, and three years later, entered the Knesset as a member of the Joint List.
During his time in the Knesset, Al-Harumi focused primarily in three main areas. His first focus was education: he strove to improve physical infrastructure in the Negev, specifically that of schools and kindergartens both in recognized and unrecognized villages. His second focus was on Bedouin communities themselves; he believed the main issue facing the Bedouin of the Negev was home demolitions in recognized and unrecognized villages. While working on staving these demolitions off, he also promoted the recognition of unrecognized villages, and sought sufficient housing for those living in recognized towns and villages. His third focus was economic: he believed the economy in the Negev would improve through employment, especially employment of young adults and women.
On 25 August 2021, Al-Harumi died tragically of a heart attack in Beer Sheva. The Knesset lost its only Bedouin member, and the projects he was working on lost some of their traction. In the wake of his passing, Mansour Abbas personally reached out to our co-founder, Yosef Abramowitz, asking him to carry on Sayyid’s legacy. Hence, the Sayyid al-Harumi Initiative was formed to pick up where he left off, with our main goal being the betterment of Bedouin communities via provision of grid-connected solar energy. Providing the Bedouin people with an opportunity to build, run, consume and maintain solar energy on their land would not only provide employment and income, but in doing so would help achieve the goals of our namesake.
The initiative is run as a Jewish-Arab non-profit by a collection of pioneers in the energy sector, environmental activists, and social justice advocates.
WHAT WE DO
The actions we take as an initiative are twofold:
The goal of the Sayyid Al-Harumi initiative is to redefine the relationship between the Arab community in Israel - primarily the Bedouin of the Negev - and the solar energy market.
Solar energy shatters the traditional energy market because it is decentralized and independent of fuel provisions for maintenance, naturally leading to a decentralized group of financial beneficiaries.
By selling electricity produced on Bedouin land to the national grid, solar can immediately become a source of reliable income for 25 years for thousands of people, while creating thousands of long-lasting or even permanent jobs. Likewise, access to energy is a prerequisite to quality of education and participation in the modern economy. By improving the energy infrastructure in and around Bedouin towns, villages and population clusters, the pathway towards robust civic, economic, and governmental involvement is laid.
Before we even had a name, our co-founder Yosef Abramowitz determined the first step towards harnessing the potential of applying this model to the Bedouin community. He realized that securing a 5,000-megawatt solar quota, specifically designated for Arabs and Bedouin living in the Negev, would allow the running of multiple solar fields in the region. Currently, our goal for acquiring this solar quota is set for 2030.
The 5,000 megawatts will be utilized via three main methods:
Privately owned “Tmura” Bedouin land: land claims of indigenous people with no paperwork is not a problem unique to Israel, yet Israel has a pathway towards recognition and settling said disputes. We are looking to forge connections between energy entrepreneurs from the private sector, and Bedouins with state-recognized, privately-owned agricultural land to advance the development of photovoltaic and agro-voltaic energy. This would provide economic growth to those living in recognized towns and villages, but who still find it difficult to make a livelihood.
Women-run, agrovoltaic cooperatives: In conjunction with the first model, we are advocating for the allocation of 5000 dunam (1235 acres) by the land authority for the specific purpose of agrovoltaic cooperatives run by Bedouin women in the Negev. The first agricultural cooperative is already being piloted by our partners, the Bedouin NGO Yanabia.
Expansion of the energy production capacity of regional councils in and around the built areas.
The second piece of our project involves an issue about which few are educated. In 2021, Sayyid al-Harumi brought to our attention a huge concern in unrecognized villages in the Negev: the use of dangerous, pollutant diesel generators, specifically in schools. According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, “diesel exhaust contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances.” Students at these diesel-powered schools - many of them kindergarten age - are in close proximity to these generators for well over thirty hours a week. In these villages, our goal is not to connect them to the solar grid; rather, we plan on providing closed-circuit solar power to the schools that need them.
While our main objective within unrecognized villages is providing a sustainable, safe replacement for the diesel generators in schools, we are also working on developing the framework for building solar installations on rooftops of homes that were built without a state-recognized building permit. Paving the way for those living in unrecognized villages to legally access personal clean energy would allow for thousands of people to be able to keep their lights on.
For more information on the infrastructure issues and lack of upward mobility in Bedouin villages in the Negev, feel free to browse our blog page, where we have resources providing information not only about the history between Israel and the Bedouin people, but further materials on the implementation of solar power.
Yosef Abramowitz, co-founder
Our co-founder, Yosef Abramowitz, was born in 1964 in Boston, Massachusetts. In the past fifteen years alone, he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 12 African Countries, named by CNN as one of the world’s top six Green Pioneers, and has founded three different solar startups. His Wikipedia describes him as an “entrepreneur, environmentalist, educator, and human rights activist”, which is all very true, but a Shabbat visit to his lovely home in Jerusalem will tell you that he is also a devoted father, husband, friend, and an excellent host.
Since making aliyah in 2006, Yosef has succeeded in bringing solar power to Israel and beyond, including projects in ten African nations. In 2009, he turned his mind to the Negev, and soon after began working with our namesake, Sayyid al-Harumi, on making this idea a reality. After Sayyid’s passing in 2021, Mahmoud Abbas charged Yosef with completing the work he and Sayyid had started. Today, he is still working on bringing this vision to life.
Micha Price, co-founder & co-director
Micha Price, our co-founder and co-director, was born and raised in our home base of Jerusalem. During his studies at the Arava Institute, he chaired the Jerusalem branch of 2050 - the student movement for policy change. After completing his studies, he partnered with Yosef, to advance the solar prospects of the Bedouin community.
Raid Abu-Alkian, co-founder & advisor
Raid has been on the scene of Bedouin solar energy from the very beginning. A teacher by training, he was a key player in the completion of the first Bedouin solar field in the town of Tarabin. Today he works at Marom energy, an Israeli-based energy company leading the charge for Bedouin solar endeavors.