History: RA and Al Aqaba

History of RA’s involvement with the Palestinian village of Al Aqaba

Note: this is an incomplete history.  We will be updating it over the weeks ahead.

Nov 19 2008: The village received 3 more orders of demolition, totaling 39 demolition orders. In response, the Rebuilding Alliance launched the “I Care About Peace, I Care About Al Aqaba” campaign, asking Americans to sign petitions and postcards to their senators and representatives.   The campaign was very well received.   Here is a letter from Senator Carl Levin to the U.S. State Department on behalf of Al Aqaba.

Richard R. Verma,  Assistant Secretary Legislative Affairs at the Department of State sent a detailed letter to follow-up.  Download the letter. Soon after, the U.S. State Department sent a senior adviser to Secretary of State Clinton to meet with the Al Aqaba Village Council.

Nov 2008: Major Haj Sami of Al Aqaba is in PeaceWork Magazine! check the link:
http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/peace-and-permits-al-aqaba-palestinian-village-seeks-security-area-c

Sep. 21, 2008: Village of Al Aqaba films their commemoration of International Peace Day (while the mayor is in the U.S.)

April 20,2008: Israel’s High Court of
Justice in a 3 judge panel issued its verdict:

“Under no circumstances will the court allow buildings without valid (but unattainable) building permits.”

“For the time being, the public buildings in the center of the village may remain standing.”

Mayor Haj Sami Sadik, BIMKOM (Planners for Planning Rights) activist Shmoel Groag, and the Rebuilding Alliance are raising awareness of and support for Al Aqaba.So far, the tour has taken us to Washington, DC (including meetings with the State Department and Congressional Staffers) and nearby towns, to New York City, New Jersey, Houston, Orange Country, and San Francisco. The tour is moving on to and will conclude in Olympia.

April 17, 2008: Israel’s High Court of Justice heard Al Aqaba’s petition. None of the villagers were given permits to attend the court hearing.

March, 2008: The children at the Kindergarten of Al Aqaba started making Pinwheels for Peace as a way to express what peace means, a way to hold on to peace despite new demolition orders.

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 The Israeli Army Civil
Administration continued to issue demolition orders against each house, road, and structure in the village.

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Following construction of the kindergarten, seventeen embassies, U.N. agencies, and NGOs invested in Al Aqaba.

October, 2003: We thought that the Al  Aqaba kindergarten was a safe and easy project because the village won its right to exist in Israeli court. However, as construction got underway, the Israeli Army Civil Administration issued demolition orders to destroy most of the homes, the mosque, the medical center and our kindergarten. At the end of December, two houses were demolished and the bulldozers intended to destroy a total of 13 homes. The American Consulate expressed urgent concern, and further demolitions were frozen at the time.

At the village’s request, Rebuilding Alliance engaged an Israeli Attorney to represent the village and petition the Israeli High Court to remove the demolition orders.  The court responded to the petition by ordering negotiations between the military and the village. Negotiations failed, however, and the Israeli Civil Administration issued more and more demolition orders against the buildings and infrastructure in the village of Al  Aqaba.

September 24, 2003: Construction was already underway on September 24th, 2003 when Craig and Cindy Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, visited the school along with Fred Sholmka from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Huwaida Arraf of the International Solidarity Movement, and Donna Baranski-Walker and Elizabeth Jadon of The Rebuilding Alliance.

Our seed grant attracted amazing matching funds: the Jenin Early Childhood Education Center provided the furnishings and teacher training for the center. Hundreds of people donated funds to complete the $35,000 grant needed to build the Kindergarten construction project. Fred Shlomka brought Israeli volunteers to help finish the kindergarten and plant a garden.

August, 2003: When a family foundation called the Oxford Foundation asked The Rebuilding Alliance to rebuild a school that would not be at risk of demolition, Donna Baranski–Walker, Director of The Rebuilding Alliance, met Mrs. Abla Mahroum, the Director of the Jenin Early Childhood Education Center, who introduced us to the Governor of the Jenin Directorate. The Governor recommended Al  Aqaba because the Israeli military had complied with the High Court’s order and their kindergarten needed a new roof.

The Israeli military camp that had conducted live training exercises in the village was removed in June 2003 — in the worst days, live training exercises conducted by the camp, within the village, injured 50 villagers and killed 8. The Israeli military had also expropriated privately registered land, and demolished all new buildings. Haj Sami Sadeq, Head of Al  Aqaba Village Council, was himself a victim of those attacks and will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Yet he welcomes all who want to help. “I believe in God and I believe that all people, no matter who they are, deserve respect,” he said.

The Village of Al  Aqaba built a kindergarten many years ago – but the Israeli Army refused to allow it to build a permanent structure. The kindergarten was constructed with temporary walls and a corrugated metal roof – hot in the summer, very cold in the winter, with birds and scorpions finding their way inside. Now that the military camp had been removed from the entrance to the village, they were ready to put a roof on the kindergarten, and invite villagers home.

July 2003: Mayor Haj Sami Sadik welcomed our team to Al  Aqaba, to hear their story and visit the existing
kindergarten. Haj Sami hoped that a good kindergarten would be a strong invitation to some 800 villagers that they could safely come back home now. We hoped our small grant would just cover the cost of the roof — Haj Sami was to work with Leila Sbeih, an engineer with the Jenin directorate and Mrs. Abla Mahroum to prepare estimates. They quickly realized the walls were not strong enough to hold a permanent roof. With confidence that we would find others who were willing to help, they set–out to plan a kindergarten of the best possible design for the 60 students enrolled. They planned an eight–room building with work?play stations, kitchen, and bathrooms, for a total project cost of $35,000 for 200 sq. meters.

September 20, 2002:
After 36 years as a “Closed Military Area”, the tiny village of Al  Aqaba (in the West Bank near Tubas) won its right to exist. On September 20, 2002, the Israeli High Court ordered the removal of an Israeli military camp that had conducted live training exercises inside the village.