My name is Morgan Bach and I’ve spent the last eight months volunteering as a teacher and visitor coordinator in Al Aqaba, a village under demolition order in Area C of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
We’ve launched the Oh Say Can You ‘C’ Speaking Tour to tell Al Aqaba’s story and share a new way of communicating with Congress to protect at-risk Palestinian communities in Area C.
What’s my story?
I was serving with AmeriCorps in New Orleans when I first heard about Al Aqaba. I wanted to visit the West Bank (after having studied abroad in Jordan) to volunteer and practice my Arabic. When I searched for “schools in the West Bank,” the first to come up was Rebuilding Alliance’s campaign to save the Al Aqaba Kindergarten that they built, which was slated for demolition by the Israeli army.
How could a kindergarten be under demolition order? That’s when I learned about Area C, the 62% of the West Bank where Palestinians need Israeli Army permission to build on their own land, and are almost always denied a building permit. 149 Palestinian communities are facing demolition orders. Though I was a little nervous about the idea of “Area C,” I decided to go and see Al Aqaba for myself.
With the help of Rebuilding Alliance and Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, I was able to stay in the village as a teacher, an organizer, a filmmaker, and a witness.
What I witnessed in Al Aqaba was the strength and resilience of the village in times of great uncertainty. Any day could bring a demolition, or a demolition notice, or a training exercise with armed soldiers, yet the people of Al Aqaba keep learning, and planning, and building, and welcoming visitors with great hospitality. They are determined to live in peace on the land they own.
After hosting internationals and Israelis in the Al Aqaba Guest House, I know the potential this village has to bring people from ALL backgrounds, nationalities, and faiths together to stand up for equal rights and dignity for Palestinians in Area C.
The problem is bigger than this one village: According to Israeli planning rights group BIMKOM, while building permits are routinely denied, over 12,000 demolition orders have been issued to Palestinian livelihood structures in Area C, and no demolition order has ever been reversed.
Phase 1 of the tour: Morgan hits the road
√ November 2nd-8th: Michigan
√ November 9th-13th: Chicago
√ November 13th-23rd: Washington D.C. (Friends Committee on National Legislation conference, Middle East institute conference)
√ November 24st-26th: Dallas (Palestinian-American Youth League conference)
√ November 26th-December 5th: Washington D.C.
√ December 5th-10th: New York City
December 10th-15th: Chicago
December 16-20th: NorCal then driving to Irvine and back
December 20th-30th: Seattle
January 2013: California tour!
This speaking tour will build a nation-wide advocacy network that is visible to Congress and the world. Because it will be grouped by Congressional districts, this network will be effective on both a local and national level. In large enough numbers we can mobilize our Representatives to challenge destructive policies and stand up for the human right of Palestinians to build a future, provide for their families, and educate their children.
Does this advocacy work? Representatives across the political spectrum have written private letters to the State Department and Israeli Embassy on behalf of Al Aqaba, and one such letter landed on the desk of an Israeli Army official responsible for issuing the demolition orders.
These interventions have kept Al Aqaba kindergarten and village standing — now help us spread the word about Area C!
Other Ways You Can Help This Project
- Share our IndieGogo project page on social media networks (this will give us GoGo points and more visibility on the IndieGoGo website!)
- Get counted in your congressional district on the “Contact Congress: I Care About Area C” map
- Bring the tour to your community! Contact me:
Morgan @ rebuildingalliance.org