Hundreds of ranchers, farmers and citizens from the Golan, Negev and everywhere in between turned out Wednesday to protest on Shai Dromi's behalf.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 10:08 PM

Hundreds of ranchers, farmers and citizens from the Golan, Negev and everywhere in between turned out Wednesday to protest in favor of the rancher charged with murder for shooting a thief.

The protestors surrounded the Be’er Sheva courthouse where Shai Dromi (pictured above) was to appear before a judge. They say the police and the politicians who have rendered them scared to do their job are to blame.

“Shair Dromi is being accused of murder in what is a classic case of self-defense,” Israeli Ranchers Association head Moshe Har Shemesh told IsraelNationalTV. “In any other place in the world he would be treated as a hero and not a criminal.”

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Har Shemesh was himself a victim to Bedouin violence. “Three Arabs came and pulled me out of my house, beat me unconscious, putting me in the hospital and stealing my flock. This is something that has happened to many of the people here today. People have come out because people are left on their own with no help and nobody to protect them. The government is unable or unwilling to deal with the thefts and the damages and the attacks to the agricultural industry in particular, which is so easy to target.”

Ranchers report that police are simply unwilling to pursue Bedouin thieves, either due to corruption, or concern that they will be turned upon in court by highers-up due to political concerns in the event of a confrontation.

“You can see what happened in the October 2000 riots,” Har Shemesh says, recalling the police dispersal of Israeli-Arab rioters in northern Israel in the early days of the Oslo War. “[The police] were told to clear a path and they did. But they found [later, in court] that they do not have the support of the higher authorities, even though they gave the orders. So why should the policeman go and risk his life to arrest the criminals when the authorities don’t stand behind him. The criminals can just stick out their tongues at the police and get away with it.”

David Raat, a farmer from Moshav Nir Bonim, said that the police have openly surrendered. “The police are useless at this point,” he said. “They don’t come and don’t help. Nothing. Sometimes they file a report – but no more. And if we ourselves catch the people and take them to the police, they go through a revolving door and are immediately let go.”

Hayim Dayan, who heads the Association of Israeli Beef Cultivators, was also at the protest. He says that over the last two years, 4,326 animals have been stolen by Arab thieves. “Cows, heifers and sheep - about 30 million shekels worth of damage,” he said. “Most of the stealing is by the Bedouins, both in the north and the south of the country.”

The Israeli government is hesitant to take on Bedouin crime families, which possess political influence, connections in the IDF, and constitute what is openly referred to as a mafia in Be’er Sheva and other southern locales.

But protesters said that they are left with no other choice than to act as Shai Dromi did, defending themselves with whatever means at their disposal.

“If at 3 or 4 AM on a Saturday morning four people bust into my sheep pen, where I was sleeping, where my family lives – after a month earlier taking my property and showing such a disregard for anything I own - I don’t think these people have any care for my life. And if I felt that my life, or the life of my family, were in danger, I would act the same way that Shai Dromi did,” Har Shemesh declared.

Dromi’s brother Amir said he was thankful Shai shot the thieves. He worries that had his brother not been armed, he would be attending funerals instead of a protest outside a courthouse. “It is better to pay $100,000 for a lawyer to defend my brother than $50 for flowers to put on his grave,” Amir said. “He did the best thing he could do to save his life and my mother’s life. That is really all I have to say.”