Eco-mosque in Wadi el Na'am
An urgent release from BUSTAN, one of the Israeli NGOs doing anti-poverty and environmental work in the Negev among Bedouin Israelis: The first environmentally-sustainable community center/mosque — a project of a Bedouin 9-year veteran of the IDF — is to be torn down TODAY by the Israeli authorities. Why? Read on.
An anedote from June ’08: Dr. Yaale Livnat of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, spoke to a rare delegation of young American Jews at an unrecognized village not far from Wadi el Na’am. Many of the students on this particular trip had been Hillel volunteers in New Orleans after Katrina. Surveying the evidence of government neglect, corrugated aluminum and wood palette shacks, the rusty generators for heat and electricity, and the empty sandlot where participants played soccer with the Bedouin teenagers, they saw that, in their own words, “It’s the same thing.”
They’re exactly right. It boils down to this: racism. Very simple, ordinary, normal, unsurprising racism. CK over at Jewlicious wants to chalk it up to a bureaucratic “accident”. The photo caption reads, “Who exactly does this Mosque threaten? We’re knocking it down because… ?”
But those of us who’ve volunteered with the Bedouin and the NGOs which work on their behalf know the simple answer. The government is knocking it down because Bedouin who live in one place long enough approach gaining squatters’ rights. It refuses to build infrastructure because Arabs are second-class citizens. Or at least, they say, it’s the Jewish State, and Jews come first.
The Negev, government representatives claim, is the only space left for Jews to expand in Israel and the target of Ben-Gurion’s dream at that. Every inch of it needs to be saved for the Jews. And if you don’t believe me, watch Chaim Yavin’s ID Blues where he interviews a regional administrator, the guy who writes the demolition orders. And it’s not surprising, given our people’s relectance to admit that as a normal country (gasp) Israel has plenty racism to deal with.
Some people are claiming, “Oh how terrible that this mosque — and for shande, it’s an eco-mosque! — will be torn down!”
The biggest shanda is that every week, somewhere in the Negev, a house or village is knocked down. And only when it’s a freakin’ eco-project by a Bedouin who served 9 years in the IDF, do we give a shit. And still, that the mainstream Jewish press doesn’t cover it at all. If this ain’t racism, I don’t know what is. That’s the shande.
It’s not just shame on Israel — shame on the Jews.
At the time this gets posted, it will likely be too late to do anything. Demolitions are postponed, but they’re almost never recinded. Despite that, BUSTAN’s call for an intervention and the emails of the authorities in charge are below the fold.

An eco-built mosque (the first in Israel) is slated for demolition in the unrecognized village of Wadi el Na’am. This village is one of the worst places I’ve ever seen on earth – surrounded 360 degrees by heavy military and industrial infrastructure, many of the citizens living there are sick, they receive no services and are ‘on hold’ to be relocated to a government-planned town for the past few years with no date in sight. This move requires them to relinquish all land claims, and many Bedouin are resistant, though not waging a non-violent struggle.
The Jews and Arabs that built this mosque are Israelis from BUSTAN, international volunteers, and a diverse mix of families from the village. We’re trying to stave the demolition – it is an inhumane way of forcing compliance and it seriously undermines work that many Jewish and Arab NGO’s are doing to build civil society in this dry, heavily contaminated, and extremely under-resourced part of the country.
BUSTAN calls for the Israeli government to negotiate with Bedouin leadership, these demolitions are a tactic employed by the Israel Land Administration must be resisted. It is undemocratic. Please forward to this appeal to your lists and HELP in any way you can, to stop the pending demolition. This is NOT a democratic policy.
November 17th, 2008
Wadi Na’am, Israel
The first mud and straw-bale built mosque in Israel received demolition orders late last week in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Wadi al Na’am, come help stop the demolition!
Volunteers are urgently needed starting this evening (Monday November 17th) to stay in the mosque through Thursday (November 20th) to protest and document any attempt to carry out the demolition.
To sign up for a shift, please email Tess at [email protected] or call her at 050-371-1802, OR Josh Berer, 052 7500152, RCUV.
If you can arrive with a car to bring people to and from Wadi Na’am that is extremely helpful. We will make every attempt to provide transportation for those who need it.
There are 80,000 Bedouin Arabs currently living in 45 unrecognized villages in Israel that lack basic infrastructure, health care, electricity, and water access. Local Bedouins as well as Christian, Muslim, and Jewish volunteers from Israel, the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Africa have contributed to building the mosque over the last four months.
For more information about the mosque, please see this article from August 2008 and this post.
If you cannot make it, please fax or call the following officials to protest the demolition:
Itzhak HaKohen, the Minister of Religious Service
Fax: 02 6706157. [email protected]

Meir Shitrit, the Minister of Interior
Fax: 02 6408920. [email protected]

Zeev Boim, the Minster of Housing and Construction, and Minister responsible for the Israeli Land Authority, and the Bedouin Minority.
Fax: 02-6496062. [email protected]

For press inquiries:
Mahmod Jarbeau at 057-466-2331 (Hebrew, Arabic) —resident of Wadi Na’am, served nine years in the Israeli military, director of the project Ra’ed Al Mickawi 052-371-1801 (Hebrew, Arabic, English)—Director of BUSTAN
Dr. Yeela Livnat Ra’anan 054-748-7005 (English, Hebrew)—RCUV
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