Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This is the history of Al Aqaba village, as told by Rebuilding Alliance, the non-profit that paid my way here.


Al Aqaba is a small village that sits on the western edge of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Most of its residents depend on agriculture and animal herding for their livelihood. When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, the army built three bases around Al Aqaba and began conducting military exercises, often within the village itself.

12 residents were killed and 38 wounded as a result of these exercises. Among those wounded is the mayor of Al Aqaba, Haj Sami Sadeq, who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1971 when, at the age of 16, he was shot three times while working the fields with his parents. Due to the unsafe conditions, over the years 700 villagers have left Al Aqaba, leaving it with its current population of 300.

In 2001, the village won a historic victory when the Israeli High Court ordered the Israeli army to remove one of its military bases from village land and cease using the village for training exercises. The village hoped the reduced military presence would allow the 700 exiled villagers to return. In anticipation of this, Al Aqaba asked the Rebuilding Alliance for help with building a kindergarten that could accommodate the children of both the current and returning residents. The kindergarten has been completed and now serves 130 children of parents who live both in and outside the village.

Despite the court victory, in 2004 Al Aqaba’s very existence was threatened when nearly the entire village was issued demolition orders by the Israeli army. The official reason given was a lack of building permits. Because it resides in Area C of the West Bank, Israel is in full control of military and civilian administration, including the issuance of building permits.

These demolition orders ignored the fact that in 1998, Al Aqaba submitted a master plan to the Israeli Civil Administration in order to attain building permits for construction. The Civil Administration never responded, following a pattern of Israeli refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians in Area C while allowing Israeli settlements to expand. The village again submitted a land-use plan in 2006 only to have it ignored once more.

In 2008, the Israeli High Court rejected Al Aqaba’s petition to have the demolition order voided, citing the village’s lack of building permits, the very same permits which the village had previously applied for and been denied.

Here's more information: Rebuilding Alliance-How Did We Get Here?