Jordan Valley - In Aqaba, houses are being demolished

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Nurit Popper, Gil Hammerschlag, Daphne Banai

Visit to Aqaba and Khalat Khader

Half a year ago, Haj Sami Sadeq passed away – the man who took a village whose inhabitants had been chased away by Israeli army maneuvers, harassment and a nearby checkpoint, and turned it into a crown jewel. First, he convinced some ex-villagers to return to Aqaba, and then began to develop it. He was a master of public relations, locally and abroad. He reached donors, private and governmental, and established a beautiful village, orderly, with sidewalks and roads (some of which the army has destroyed), a school, a wonderful park, a kindergarten, a music conservatory, a mosque and even a guesthouse. But the peak of his endeavors was the teabags and cheese projects of the village women who found good livelihood there. When the Israeli army shot him at the age of 16, it never imagined that a giant the likes of Haj Sami would stand up to it, struggle (along with the Israel Association for Citizens Rights) and manage to bring water to his village, throw out the Israeli army units that used to hold military exercises among the village houses at night, and bring 500 villagers back home. God bless his soul!

We have been notified that some of the villagers have been issued demolition orders, after in recent years Israel had refrained from demolishing there (another of Haj Sami’s achievements?), and in January 2022 the army demolished an incomplete building in the village and confiscated a car.

We set a meeting with the head of the local council, and another person who told us he was replacing Haj Sami. In our talk we found out that the persons in charge are having a hard time renewing the ties that their predecessor had nurtured, and need help in order to continue Haj Sami’s life project.

We visited the demolished building, spoke with the welding workshop owner whose car was confiscated (“firing zone” – in the heart of the village…), and needed to pay 4,300 NIS to get it back.

Then, we visited the kindergarten. 35 3-year-olds waited there in perfect order for their transport to take them back home to the neighboring villages.

We drove out to see where colonists had refurbished a Palestinian spring (which had sustained Palestinian life) and built a pool for their pleasure, which is totally unattended. In order to take over the spring, Israel demolished an encampment where Palestinian families had lived, transferred the spring water in pipes to the west, confiscated Palestinian water tanks, and destroyed the life project of R. – raising fish.

The community transported its dwellings to the west, near the cowsheds of Mekhola colony. As we got there, 3 girls peeped at us from inside one of the tents, and when they dared to come out we saw they were wearing beautiful white-yellow flower garlands, one on their hair, one around the neck, and one on each arm. We wanted to take pictures of them but their mother refused, and offered us the garlands to be photographed with them. The girls wanted to make us garlands to take with us, but we had no time to wait…

Finally, we visited M.’s greenhouse once more, and at some amazing strawberries which he grows. Nurit suggested he dig a water cistern to hold rainwater, but M. said that the army would come and destroy it. We wondered – it would demolished the little water hole and not the greenhouse? M. said that “without water, even the greenhouse could not survive.”