Thousands of mourners turned out on Wednesday evening for the funeral of Ra’am MK Said al-Harumi, who died overnight of a heart attack at age 49.
Al-Harumi was buried at the cemetery in the Bedouin town of Shaqib al-Salam, or Segev Shalom, south of Beersheba. Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas; Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh; Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy; ministers Meir Cohen, Eli Avidar, Tamar Zandberg, Omer Barlev and Ze’ev Elkin; and many other members of Knesset attended the services.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, many more mourners from the area were stuck in traffic and couldn’t reach the funeral in time. Many people have also already visited the mourning tent set up outside al-Harumi’s home in the southern town.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who flew overnight to the United States to meet US President Joe Biden, sent his condolences upon his arrival stateside.
“In the name of the State of Israel, I send my condolences to the al-Harumi family upon the death of [Knesset] House Committee Chairman MK Said al-Harumi,” said Bennett. “May we know no more sorrow.”
“This is a sad day for the Knesset of Israel,” Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky wrote after attending the funeral. “Said was a public servant for the Bedouins of the south and for joint and equal rights for all citizens of Israel. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Al-Harumi’s fellow Ra’am MK Walid Taha spoke to the Kol Berama radio station Wednesday evening about his late colleague.
“Said Al-Harumi dedicated his entire life to helping the Arab community,” said Taha. “He was very well educated, quiet and unassuming. He always knew how to convey his message in a quiet and orderly way.”
Al-Harumi first entered the Knesset in 2017 as a member of the Joint List, and later remained in the Knesset with Ra’am after the faction split off. The Islamist party made history earlier this year in becoming the first Arab party in decades to join a governing coalition, and the first to play an integral role in Israel’s governance.
In July, al-Harumi was appointed chairman of the Knesset House Committee. With his death, the Knesset is expected to see the return of Iman Khatib-Yasin, a self-described feminist and Israel’s first hijab-wearing MK, who was elected to parliament in 2020 but failed to retain her seat in the 2021 vote.
Al-Harumi hailed from the Bedouin heartland in the Negev Desert, where tens of thousands of people live in unrecognized villages that are largely cut off from basic services, and where homes and other structures have been built without legal permits, putting them at risk of demolition by Israeli authorities.
Al-Harumi spent years negotiating with the government to recognize some of the Bedouin villages and had hoped that Ra’am’s controversial decision to enter the government would advance their cause.