In the two years since I’ve been gone Al Aqaba has gone through some extraordinary changes. If you’ve read The Non-Violent Resistance of Al Aqaba, you’ll know something of the struggles this community has gone through. Yet despite the constant threat of demolition and frequent visits from the Israeli army, Al Aqaba and its mayor, Haj Sami, have done some amazing feats.
[Please note, I intentionally avoided posting photos with recognizable people in them.]
When I last left, they’d already transformed this little tent-strewn village into a thriving hamlet that provided work for many of the locals–most specifically a cheese factory, an organic herbal tea factory, and a school. These buildings, along with the beautiful mosque they built here, provide an incredible service to the population in the area. Still, when I last was here there was no store or services–one had to go out to Tayasir (the village next door) or to Tubas to get even basic supplies. Also, there was no running water to the village–inhabitants had to truck it in. When I left there was talk about transforming the barren areas between the mosque and the school into a park, but I never imagined it would come to this type of fruition.
Lined with young plants and fruit trees, the central area of Al Aqaba has been truly transformed into a meeting place that people come from as far away as Tubas to enjoy. At night there are people here from all over, enjoying their evening meal, taking walks in the peaceful, fresh air of Al Aqaba, and enjoying the playground and carousal the park offers. (I can’t say I’ve seen any other playgrounds in Palestine…honestly…)
The park even has a fountain! Considering the fact that they don’t yet have municipal water, this is a great feat in itself!
The carousal, like the park, is lit up at night, and kids young and old flock to it.
To those in developed countries not living under occupation, this may look like a small thing, but I assure you this lights up the kids’ day like nothing else.
The carousal runs for as long as the park is open–until midnight (at least during Ramadan). It’s almost always going. It does cost a few shekels, so the fact that it keeps going is a testament to the kids’ determination in pestering their parents all night long.
Another huge improvement is the addition of a local store–a place where one can buy basic necessities and treats without having to leave the town.
I had the delight of seeing two of my younger Bedouin friends Abed (9) and his younger brother coming to the store to buy treats–something that could not have been last time I was here.
How did all of this come about? Through the ceaseless efforts of the town’s mayor, Haj Sami. After being shot by a stray bullet from the Israeli forces’ training maneuvers and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, he chose to fight back–not with bullets, but by investing in infrastructure that truly serves his people. He ceaseless efforts of fundraising, planning, and building have truly transformed this little village into a resource shared by the entire area.
In addition to providing employment and social services, the increased infrastructure makes the town that much more difficult for the Israeli army to bulldoze. So far, it’s only managed to take out the outlying structures (unfortunately, those belonging to very good friends of mine).
The village also sports a nice guest house, welcomes volunteer English teachers, and provides a nice, pastoral atmosphere (when the Israeli army isn’t shooting up a storm) to learn about Palestine and everything that’s going on here. If you’d like to visit, check out this guest house link or contact Haj Sami directly. Volunteering here is a joy. I highly recommend it.
Haj Sami Sadiq
Tel: 09 2572201
Facebook: Haj Sami Sadeq
If you haven’t already, please read The Non-Violent Resistance of Al Aqaba to understand more fully why this small Palestinian village is under constant threat of demolition.