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Heated Debate in the Interior Committee on the Phenomenon of Camels Roaming the Roads of the South

“The facts are painful for everyone – need to address in legislation and deterrence.”

The Knesset Interior Committee held a discussion on Tuesday on the issue of camels roaming the roads of the south following a fatal accident in which a woman was killed two weeks ago.

Meir Deutsch, representative of Regavim, presented to the Committee data on accidents that involve camels in the last seven years – about a thousand complaints annually. “The data is painful for everyone – in order to put an end to this there is a need to address the problem with legislation and enforcement. The bill was worked on with MK Smotrich and supported by dozens of MKs, would require a microchip for each animal, will determine the transfer of ownership in order to prohibit wandering camels near roads.”

camel meeting knesset

MK Talab Abu argued that the debate is part of the persecution of the Bedouin population. He said, “The camels are indeed dangerous, but the State is guilty that it does not give enough grazing land to the owners. There is a need to meet with the farmers and reach an agreement with them.”

Shimon Buzaglo, whose brother Koby was killed in an accident with a camel two years ago, denied the MK Abu appeal and ruled that this is just an escape from reality: “My brother was killed by a camel that was owned by Jews. Blood that is shed is the same blood.  The offenders do not pay the price and take no responsibility. This situation must change.”

MK Shuli Mualem, a former resident of Be’er Sheva who served as head nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center, said that from her experience in the field, “any attempt on our part to promote microchips on camels did not work. Accidents involving camels kept happening.  You can not say that everything depends on the amount of pasture area and ignore the need for fixing microchips on the camels, thereby making it clear who is really responsible for all of them. There are regulations that were written in 2008 and since then nothing has been implemented. People continue to be killed and injured, and the price being paid is unbearable.”

Despite the consensus of the magnitude of the phenomenon, each different enforcement body has put the blame on each other.

Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture said “as part of the vaccine program that we performed on the camels in the South, we also inserted 500 microchips in camels, but the microchip identification is not mandatory and there are another 3,000 camels who are not marked, and many are not even marked with an ear tag. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility, with a lot of denying accepting it.”

The Israeli police state that, “accidents involving camels are almost certain fatal accidents. The police come to the accidents immediately upon receiving a call. The officer can activate a siren and close the road, but does not have the knowledge and ability to handle camels. We should invest primarily in prevention of accidents.”

Uri Malka, Director of the Green Patrol, claimed that the patrol activity is voluntary, “although it is not our job nor under our jurisdiction. We have a quarantine station near Haifa, but there is also a budget issue – who will pay for the removal of camels? These are not good working conditions here. Our drivers are threatened often by the Bedouins.”

Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, has expressed her support for the bill by MK Smotrich and attacked the police that she said does not help for the operational enforcement on a regular basis.  “The police must close the roads as soon as they are notified of stray camels just like it does in the case of oil on the road. It is better to have people to have to wait in traffic and not be killed.”

Itzik Tzur, a resident of Kfar Ratamim, a village that lost one of its residents in an accident involving a camel,  says that “in addition to the legislation that would take time before it will be passed, we can solve most of the problems in implementing the price to be paid by the owners of the stray camels.  Wherever you initiate enforcement and confiscation of stray camels there is a clear and distinct deterrence.”

Road Safety Authority officials and NGO Green Light reviewed the safety elements that exist now and the need to add lighting and fencing.

Committee Chairman Davidi Amsalem stated that the follow-up session would be held in three months, during which times all parties have to demonstrate significant enforcement activity.  Amsalem added that the Ministry of Agriculture must examine the increasing of grazing land alongside the making of the regulations.

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