Al Aqaba is a small village in the Northern Jordan Valley that is building and planning for a better future. The village is located in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control. Its location in Area C means that the villagers are unable to obtain building permits to build on their own land, and 97% of the village is under demolition order. In spite of this threat, the village continues to send a message of peace to its neighbors and friends around the world.
For decades, Al Aqaba was used as a military training zone, and twelve villagers were killed and dozens wounded during live-fire training exercises. In 2003, the village won a landmark victory when the Israeli High Court ruled that the army camp at the entrance of the village had to relocate. By that time, 70% of the village’s original 1000 residents had left, seeking safety and better living conditions. With hopes that these former residents could return, the Village Council appealed to international organizations to help them plan for their future. Among the projects they implemented were a medical clinic and a new three-story building that housed a sewing cooperative and a kindergarten for the children of Al Aqaba and families who had relocated to nearby villages. As soon as the building was erected, it and most of the village was delivered notices for demolition.
In the last two years, the Israeli army has demolished two homes, two barns and two major roads. The village is still not able to obtain building permits, and its third master plan was rejected by the Israeli Civil Administration in 2011.
In 1971, sixteen year-old Sami Sadeq was shot by soldiers while working in his family’s fields and has since been wheelchair-bound. Now as mayor, Haj Sami Sadeq has helped Al Aqaba village build and plan for a better future, and his message is one of peace and hospitality. Over the last ten years the village has attracted investment from 17 different embassies and international organizations that have supported their kindergarten, sewing cooperative, tea factory, women’s society, and agricultural initiatives. The Al Aqaba Guest House also welcomes Palestinian, Israeli and international visitors and volunteers.
Visitor Rachel: “I came to visit Al Aqaba last fall during the olive harvest and had a great time! Haj Sami and Morgan were both so welcoming and made me and my friend feel at home. We helped with the harvest during the day, visited the kindergarten and co-ops, and took strolls in the evenings. It was such a wonderful experience that I was happy to have and bring back home with me.”
Elaine, a volunteer English teacher: “I am not just teaching, but also learning. I learn how to interact with children, how to cooperate with the people from a different culture background, and how to understand the situation of this village, which is under demolition orders. I’m so much more than just a teacher. I’m part of Al Aqaba village.”