Letter from Al Aqaba on the ‘Rebuilding to Remain’ campaign

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I can’t recall when my radar first picked up on Al Aqaba, a small peaceful village nestled in the Jordan Valley. Whether it was letters from Al Aqaba’ Mayor Haj Sami Sadiq, the surreal video Hundreds of Israeli soldiers show up in village targeted for demolition, one of Phil’s several trips to the village or following the diary of an American girl in Palestine, but by now I’ve developed somewhat of an attachment to the place.

Israel continually uses Al Aqaba as a military training ground but somehow, even with demolition orders on the mosque, kindergarten and health clinic looming, the determined citizens just keep on struggling to remain.

Safa's Letter
Safa’s Letter

A few days ago in conversation with Donna Baranski-Walker, director of Rebuilding Alliance, about their program in Al Aqaba, Rebuilding to Remain*, curious about the families in the video above, I asked how the other families were doing, waiting for their homes.

Donna has a determined insistent passion for what she does and stated their project is constructive resistance. (I love that!) She sent along a photo of Safa and Nabil Sbaih, both originally from Al Aqaba and mentioned they were waiting out their days in Hebron. I mentioned how we’d love to hear from them in their own words and yesterday she sent along this letter and photo with a note mentioning “Our guest from Ramallah, Faten Toubasi, interviewed Safa by phone and transcribed her letter accordingly.  We then translated it.


Dear People Everywhere,

I’m writing you this letter to express what it means to be able to move into my new house in my village of Al Aqaba.  My husband, Nabil, our children and I are living in Al Khalil (Hebron). Hebron is located in the south of the West Bank, very far from my village.  We can visit our family and friends only twice a year.  I miss out on the wonderful community events in Al Aqaba and my children don’t get to play with their cousins.   In Al Aqaba, we have lots of space for children to play, but because Al Khalil (Hebron) is a big city, there are no parks for children, no safe places to play.

There are so many reasons why we want to have our own home.  Our landlord does not want to rent anymore.  My husband, Nabil, plans to finish his education outside of the West Bank but he is postponing his studies because our new house is not ready yet.  It is next to impossible for a woman from a village to live in the city alone without her husband. For this reason, my husband cannot leave me here to go study abroad.  I myself am studying now for my MA in Arabic Language Education and I really want to work after I graduate. The only way I could possibly do this is if my family takes care of my children, including the new baby coming in June.  Lastly, it is also important to me that my children attend the kindergarten in Al Aqaba where I will be working.

I will paint my house beige inside because it will be bright and spacious. My daughter’s room, I will paint pink because it is her favorite and my son’s room will be green because he really likes this color. For the outside, I will paint it off-white and bordeaux because those are my favorite colors and they will go especially well with the greenery outside. Mine will be an open kitchen so that I can keep an eye on my children while I am cooking.

InshaAllah, Rebuilding Alliance will raise enough to finish all three homes, but if this does not happen yet, I want Sadeq’s house to be completed first so that he can marry.  They’ve been waiting such a long time to start their life together.

Thank you, dear ones, for all you are doing to make it possible for us to move into our homes in Al Aqaba Village.


Safa Sbaih


* Today (Wednesday), Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine will receive a 30% bonus for all  donations thanks to Global Giving’s Bonus Day competition.

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Donated again. This project really does touch my heart.

I first met Phil Weiss when I brought the Mayor of Al Aqaba, Haj Sami Sadeq, to speak at a Brooklyn for Peace event in 2008. It was the opening week at the U.N., the stock market was crashing around us and the hotel that assured us access for people with disabilities was sadly wrong. What a challenge to find accessible accommodations when all of NYC is full — the dynamic mayor of Al Aqaba… Read more »

where exactly is al aqaba on the map

Thanks for the reminder. I made a donation in memory of the wonderful actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

P.S. Here is an interesting portrait of Philip Seymour Hoffman that affects a “daguerreotype” or a “tintype” from the 1800s. It was taken by photographer Victoria Will at the Sundance Film Festival two weeks prior to Hoffman’s death on February 2nd.
IMAGE URL –comment image


‘Rebuilding to Remain’ is in 3rd place with about 35 min to go. Good news: we’ve raised enough to finish Sadeq’s house — they’ll be able to get married in March!