Video: Champion of the Desert
Hazem Abu Qwedar teaches karate 370
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Beduin karate instructor empowers an unrecognized village in the Negev.
The Beduin village of Abu Qwedar is one of about 45 Arab-Israeli villages in the Negev region that are unrecognized by the state, due to land disputes dating back to the founding of the Israel. Unrecognized villages have no local councils, do not belong to a regional council and are ineligible to basic services and resources. They are disconnected from the grid of electricity, water mains, road construction, and public transit. For health care, schooling, and voting people have go to nearby recognized villages.The village runs on electricity powered by solar panels which Abu Qwedar people bought and installed on their own. However, without a community center, the kids lack extracurricular activities. Hazem Abu Qwedar began training in martial arts as a young boy, and grew up to be an accomplished karate instructor. He saw value in martial arts that he wanted to pass on to those around him. He built a dojo (training room) with his own hands in 2003, introducing karate to the kids of the village. Once having nothing to do but play around in the dirt roads of the village, the kids training with Hazem are now empowered with martial arts values such as respect, restraint, tolerance, and self-confidence. Through karate, Abu Qwedar kids are also introduced to martial arts students outside the village, by participating in countrywide competitions. Seven years ago, Hazem began working with Budo for Peace, an organization that promotes coexistence and education through martial arts. Martial arts events and competitions held by the organization bring Abu Qwedar children together with students across Israel and abroad. Since introducing karate to the Abu Qwedar, Hazem brought his village, unrecognized by the state, respect and recognition on the martial arts map.