In 2003, the Rebuilding Alliance received a grant from a family foundation with the instructions, “Build a school for Palestinian children that will not be demolished again.” This would be our first project outside Jerusalem. It took 1.5 years to select and then reach Al Aqaba Village.
We thought it was our safest project:
- In 2003, Al Aqaba won its case before the Israeli High Court and the Israeli Army moved its training camp out.
- Villagers were delighted, returning home. They needed a new kindergarten!
- No disputed borders: Al Aqaba was far from the border with Israel and far from the border with Jordan. There were no settlements nearby.3 months later, in September of 2003, construction was just underway when we returned with Cindy and Craig Corrie, for the groundbreaking ceremony for what would become the new kindergarten! In April, 2004 Cindy and Craig joined the Rebuilding Alliance’s new board of directors and we completed all the paperwork required to become a nonprofit organization.
• Our kindergarten is bringing 130 students from all the neighboring areas!
• The Japanese, Belgians, and Norwegians paid for the 2nd Floor! 17 other embassies , UN Agencies, and NGOs helped too!
• Recently, the Rebuilding Alliance added the Ibn Rush’d Library, and a 3rd Floor with a Sewing Room for the Rural Women’s Cooperative!
In 2004, as we were building, demolition orders were issued against the whole village: their mosque, the medical center, nearly all the homes, and our kindergarten.
- The American Embassy helped stop the bulldozers with 2 homes demolished.
- The Rebuilding Alliance helped Al Aqaba hire an Israeli lawyer who petitioned the Israeli High Court.
- And as the court date drew near, the whole village began to make Pinwheels for Peace – so the children could hold on to what peace means.
- “IT TAKES A VILLAGE, TO SAVE A VILLAGE” that was the sign we put up when the Rebuilding Alliance moved our office into a tent in front of the City Hall in Palo Alto, California – and within days we were in Washington DC, learning how to walk the halls of Congress and hundreds of people called their senators and congressmen to urge them to save the Kindergarten.
What is Going On?
Building permits are now nearly unattainable in Area C and Al Aqaba is one of 130 Palestinian villages in Area C. The Israeli Human Rights group, BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights, has published a study entitled, The Prohibited Zone: Israeli planning policy in the Palestinian villages in Area C. The Israeli Army is prohibiting the villagers of Al Aqaba from building on the land they own. The villagers have filed building permit applications, but permits are not being granted. The villagers appeal their cases all the way to the Israeli High Court – but so far, the Israeli Army will not allow Palestinian villages to do the very thing that towns are supposed to do: create master plans and issue building permits.
Here is a the latest filing of Al Aqaba’s master plan:
- The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) in Ramallah assumed legal representation of the village of Al Aqaba and filed a new master plan on behalf of the village.
- When the mayor of Al Aqaba, and the director of the kindergarten visited Congress (Sept, 08) Senator Levin’s Congressional staffers said they would help – and told us our cause is strengthened when 1000 constituents say they care.
- In February 09 we delivered 6000 signed post-cards to Senators and Representatives.
- In August 09, Senator Levin sent a letter to the State Department asking them to assist in saving Al Aqaba and he received a reply stating that the U.S. would. Soon after, a very senior adviser to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited the village council in Al Aqaba.
- In January, 2011, the Israeli Civil Administration rejected the village’s petition for approval of its 2nd Master Plan stating that the village is not entitled to plan the use of all the land that villagers own. JLAC is in the process of submitting the 3rd Master Plan.
- On April 7th, 2011 the Israeli Army demolished two homes with attached barns, a water cistern, the main roads into and out of Al Aqaba, and the electricity poles. 2 meter-high earthen barriers were put in place to permanently close the roads to the village.
- On April 17th, 2011, the Rebuilding Alliance launched the “Open the Road to Al Aqaba, Pave the Road to Peace” Campaign!