A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, pages 51-52
Mosque Demolition in Israel
THE FIRST mud and straw-bale built mosque in Israel received demolition orders on Aug. 21, 2008 in the “unrecognized” bedouin village of Wadi al Na’am. Mud and straw-bale building is a sustainable method of building, and the mosque was set to be the biggest building of this kind in Israel.
The project began three months earlier under the direction of Mahmoud Jarbea, a local bedouin sheikh who grew up in Wadi al Na’am and served in the Israeli army for nine years. Local bedouins, Israeli teenagers, as well as Christian, Muslim and Jewish volunteers from the United States, Europe, Latin America and Africa had built a steel frame and lined it with straw bales for insulation. The first coat of mud was almost completed when the demolition orders arrived. The community hopes to finish the mosque by winter, assuming it is not demolished before it can be completed.
Seven thousand years ago, well before the establishment of the Israeli state, the bedouins first began settling in the Negev Desert. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle until the Israeli government removed them “temporarily” to the northeastern Negev and restricted them to Siyag (which means fence in Arabic and which resembles an Native American reservation). The Siyag is a triangular region between Arad, Dimona and Beersheba. Since Israel considers this area state land, its bedouin residents are unable to legally own the land on which they live, even though their “temporary” removal has lasted more than 60 years.
Approximately 160,000 bedouins in the Negev live in a combination of “unrecognized” villages and “recognized” townships. In the 36 unrecognized villages where approximately half the bedouin live, the residents live in conditions vastly inferior to those enjoyed by Jewish Israeli citizens. Because Israel will not issue building permits to anyone building in unrecognized villages, bedouin are not allowed to build permanent structures. They have no running water, sewage service or electrical connections, and their roads, healthcare and education are severely limited.
The same day the demolition order for the mosque was delivered, Mahmoud Jarbea, whose family has been living in the Negev since before 1948, also received a demolition order for his sheep pen. The industrial complex of Ramat Hovav, across the street from his sheep pen, sits on their former lands.
Recently, Jarbea decided to build a mosque for his community. Khalid Al-Ubra, who currently is taking the permaculture course offered by Bustan (Sustainable Community Action for Land and People), then got involved in the project and proposed using the sustainable mud and straw-bale construction method.
Jarbea said he hopes that when it is completed, the mosque will serve as an example of sustainable construction for the village. Currently, most homes are built from tin, primarily because of the ease and speed of building with this material, especially since the community is constantly faced with demolitions. However, tin homes provide no insulation from high temperatures in the summer and low temperatures in the winter. The mud and straw-bale method of building, on the other hand, is an excellent insulator. Additionally, it uses locally available sustainable materials.
The demolition order means that the Israeli government plans to destroy the structure any time it chooses to. The demolition crew may come with their trucks and bulldozers in a matter of hours or of years. The community’s reaction to the demolition notice was surprising. Not only did the building of the mosque continue as if it would survive for many years to come, but some of the volunteers leapt into action to protect this mosque the best they could.
—Dana Lazarus and Lisa Schindler