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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation

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Soldiers go to sleep in village threatened with demolition
By Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih
Mayor, Al Aqaba village
Email message from
aqaba2006@yahoo.com

Via Donna Baranski-Walker
The Rebuilding Alliance
dbw@rebuildingalliance

Feb. 28, 2012

Letter to the People of Israel

Dear People of Israel,

I am the mayor of Al Aqaba, a small peaceful Palestinian Village in the Jordan Valley, in the West
Bank Area C. I asked that this message be translated also into Hebrew, a language I speak when I learned it
over the years I spent in Israeli hospitals. I am writing to tell you about your armys training in our
village last week. I hope you will feel reassured by my message and help, as so many of you helped
over 10 years ago, to assure the future of our village.

On the morning of Wednesday February 22, 2012, the biting cold greeted us before dawn as we
headed to morning prayers. To our surprise, Israeli occupation forces in three jeeps and military
vehicles were parked in front of the main door of our mosque in our Village of Al Aqaba. We were
afraid to approach, and their unanticipated presence caused a twenty-minute delay of the adhan, the
Islamic prayer faithfully recited five times a day.

We hoped that the military vehicles would move but no. As we walked past the military jeeps to
attend the dawn prayers, we were surprised to find the jeeps running and the soldiers inside in a very
deep sleep. Even after the call to prayer, they remained asleep. They must have been very tired. As
we departed the mosque in the morning light workers, famers, and students starting our day
we were stunned to see hundreds of soldiers, laying down and sleeping throughout our village, on
our roads and in our fields, some right next to our homes.

Although the sleeping soldiers were a rare sight for the village to behold, we decided not to disrupt
the soldiers and prevented any harm or disruption to the soldiers while they slept. But it was such a
curious sight and we did not know what the work of the soldiers would be when they woke up, so I
asked friends to quietly film. Here is our teachers film Israeli Army in Al Aqaba 2-22-12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCeCbMeddSA&context=C3266428ADOEgsToPDskKBeo3C1pWQTCsMvpILrR1Y

The soldiers presence in our village raised a lot of fear and anxiety, especially given our history
and the 2001 Israeli High Court decision that prevents soldiers from using our village for training
exercises. Later many of Aqabas villagers found themselves wondering, Where else could
soldiers have parked, camped, and slept peacefully, safely watched over by Palestinian
villagers? And why, if they trust us enough to sleep here among us, why do they still want to
destroy our village?

The Israeli Army has issued demolition orders against more than 90% of our village. Within a
month of Israeli Brigadier General Moti Almoz December meeting with the Governor of Tubas and
with me here in Al Aqaba Village, 29 more demolition orders were issued.

Because international organizations can call the Israeli Army, I asked Rebuilding Alliance, an
American organization that is raising funds to help us rebuild our homes, to call them. An Israeli
Army contact denied the soldiers were even in the village and again warned Rebuilding Alliance that
any new homes in Al Aqaba will be destroyed. They said American towns would do the same as they
but, as Rebuilding Alliance replied, American town councils create town plans, issue building
permits, and inspect new structures. Thats what Al Aqaba is doing in its town, on its own land, land
to which they hold clear title.

The people of the village of Al Aqaba have been bearing the pain of life under occupation and
theft of property since the 1967 war. As a result of the military maneuvers conducted with live
ammunition by the Israeli army and settlers, the agriculture has been impacted greatly by the
destruction of our citizens crops, growing isolation of the citizens from outside resources, home
and road demolitions, and the denial of essential services to our small village, particularly safe, clean drinking water and the right to build our homes basic human rights that every human being is
entitled to.

Last year Occupation Forces twice destroyed our Peace Road, the road our school bus uses to get
the children to school. Additionally, seven families were made homeless by destruction of their
modest homes, and their goats had to sleep in the cold too when their stables were destroyed. These senseless acts of destruction especially frighten our children.

People of Israel, we are not a threat to you. We are your neighbors. Please recognize Al Aqabas
town plans. Help us build a secondary school and a rehabilitation hospital. Come visit us and stay in
our guest house.

We ask your help and we welcome you.

Sincerely,

Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih
Mayor of Al Aqaba Village
Near Tubas, Jordan Valley, West Bank, Palestine
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