What/where is Al Aqaba?
Al Aqaba is a Palestinian village located in the Northern Jordan Valley, near the West Bank city of Tubas. Because it’s located in Area C, which covers 62% of the West Bank, the village is under full Israeli military and administrative control.
After the 1967 War, Israel began occupying and colonizing the West Bank, and Al Aqaba (at that time a community mostly made up of tents) was surrounded by four military training camps. Soldiers carried out live-fire training exercises within the village, and as a result, twelve villagers were killed and thirty-eight injured, including Haj Sami Sadeq, the current mayor of Al Aqaba. When asked for an explanation, a military spokesman replied that the village was ideal for training because it resembled South Lebanon.
In 2003, Al Aqaba celebrated a landmark victory when the Israeli High Court responded to their petition and ordered the closure of the military camp at the village entrance. 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, agricultural initiatives, 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.
Although the Council submitted several master plans for the development of village lands, Al Aqaba has yet to receive a building permit. Between 2000 and 2007, of all the Area C Palestinian permit applications sent to the Israeli Civil Administration, only 5% (91) were granted. In that same span of time, over 18,400 structures were built for Israeli settlers in Area C.
Because of the lack of unattainable building permits, today 97% of Al Aqaba is slated for demolition, including the mosque and the kindergarten. The last three demolitions have happened in the span of a year: April 2011 (1 house, 1 barn, 2 roads), September 2011 (1 house, 1 barn, the 2 roads, re-paved) and April 2012 (the 2 roads, un-paved).
Al Aqaba remains a peaceful village, and the needs of its residents are simple–to plan for their own future and live and build on their own land. Organizations and embassies from several countries including the United States, Britain, Belguim, Norway and Japan have supported the right of the village to remain, but help and recognition are still needed to secure its future. Ongoing projects include building new homes (with Rebuilding to Remain), supporting a live-in English teacher, (Teaching in a Village Under Demolition Order) and finishing the kindergarten’s playground, a kid’s club, and the Village Council office. To learn about helping a project in Al Aqaba, contact mayor Haj Sami Sadeq at firstname.lastname@example.org (and cc: email@example.com).
The Al Aqaba Guest House is an apartment above the secondary school that was recently renovated to house English teachers and guests of Al Aqaba village.
The objectives of the visitor and volunteer program are to:
-Support the right of the village to remain on its land by bringing in new eyes, new voices, and new resources.
-Provide a venue for individuals and groups to learn about Area C and the Jordan Valley, while experiencing the hospitality of a Palestinian village.
-Create a self-sustaining network of past visitors and volunteers in Al Aqaba
-Bring people together in a new place to further dialogue and understanding
My name is Morgan, and I moved to Al Aqaba in September to teach English and help Haj Sami advocate for the village. I taught English for three months, and I loved Al Aqaba so much that I stayed for eight, serving as a visitor/volunteer coordinator.
This blog is for all the of the guests who stay in the guest house. If you’re interested in visiting, or supporting the visitor/volunteer program, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.