The association Ayalim, which acts to settle students in the Negev and Galilee, was supposed to appear before students of Ben Gurion University, but the lecturers complained: “this is most racist. They work only amongst Jews”.

Ilana Koriel Ynet


Realisation of Ben Gurion’s vision is at the epicenter of a storm in the Negev’s capital: The appearance of people from the association Ayalim, who promote the settlement of students in the Negev and the Galilee, in university classrooms was permitted by the university, but resulted in numerous complaints of the “real” goals of the association by lecturers in the academic establishment. “In my opinion this is most racist,” wrote Dr. Hamutal Tsamir, a lecturer in the Department of Literature.

To date the association has established 14 student villages, in a majority of which live students from the southern university. In its classroom activities, the association desired to mobilize additional quality students for its settlement project and social involvement, through realization of “Ben Gurion’s vision,” as it defines this.

The university’s central committee allowed the association’s staff to appear in the first minutes of each lesson, until conclusion of the academic year. In a letter distributed by the committee to the faculty deans, it was noted that “representatives of Ayalim are to identify themselves to staff members before receiving permission to speak.”

This decision, however, raised the anger of numerous lecturers, internal correspondence from whom reached ynet, and who are angry that the association turns only to Jewish students. According to them, the goal of the association is to establish settlements “in urban spaces within the Green Line, through an emphasis on settlement in cities in which Jews and Arabs live together. Additionally, the lecturers contended that this is a political association, and such political activities are forbidden on campus.”

“Warning: “Turn to Jews Only”

“The ‘Ayalim’ association is an ideological association of Jews only, which turns only to Jews in the name of the need it took upon itself, for whatever reason, to continue the Zionist vision of settling (in an age in which there are enough residential areas of settlement)”, wrote Dr. Hamutal Tsamir, a lecturer in the Department of Hebrew Literature. “In my opinion this is most racist, but even if there is no violation of the law or university regulations – it should be conditioned that its staff declare ahead of time, upon their entrance, “we turn to Jews only.”

Dr. Nahum Karlinsky, a lecturer in the Department of History of the Jewish People, explained his opposition in that the association is political and excludes non-Jews from it. “Its primary goal is Jewish settlement in the urban spaces throughout the country,” he wrote to staff members, “through an emphasis on the urban spaces of mixed cities such as Acre and Be’er Sheva.” Karlinsky argued that the decision of the committee comes as an attempt to placate the Ministry of Education, various donors and an aspiration to quell a bit the attacks on our university by Im Tirzu.”

In wake of the storm, Tsamir explained that amongst staff members there arose a discussion whether to allow the association to enter classes. According to her, one of the lecturers expressed his opinion that the actions of the association, which presents itself as Zionist and turns to Jewish students only – conflicts with the values of equality “precisely in a period in which the lands of the Bedouins are taken from them again and again with the contention that “there is no land”. Perhaps the association itself is legitimate, but the important question is if it is appropriate that the university encourage it?”

Executive Director of the Ayalim association, Matan Dahan, responded that “this is a Zionist association that views settling the Negev and the Galilee as essential challenges and the mission of the country’s young generation. In perceiving Zionism from its beginning there was no element of discrimination and racism. Therefore, Ayalim perceives itself as part of the continuation of the Zionist idea, and works extensively in social actions within the Bedouin sector and receives non-Jewish students to the student villages. It is ridiculous in my eyes that this association, which promotes a sane discourse amongst social sectors, is criticized by lecturers and populations presenting themselves as enlightened people.”

President of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi, said “I have nothing to say about internal correspondence, but only about the great and pioneering activity of the Ayalim association. Dr. Karlinsky did not respond to ynet.

Trans. From Hebrew by Connie Hackbarth