International Solidarity Movement
7 May 2010The small village of Al Libban (Libban al Sharquia) sits in rolling hills planted with olive trees, approximately half way between Ramallah and Nablus. The villagers are simple fellahin – farmers – growing wheat and fruit in addition to their olive trees. The pride of the village is the central mosque, an impressive, large structure, built in 1977 and the only mosque currently in operation.
That was, until the night of Tuesday 4th May when fire gutted the mosque’s interior, destroying carpets, furniture, numerous Korans and the building’s fixtures and fittings. The visitor now witnesses a scene of total devastation. The blackened walls, floor and ceiling have a nighmarish quality and it is hard to imagine that this was once a beautiful, light-filled and serene place of worship. Local children have attempted to assert their defiance by scrawling such slogans as “Allah Akbar” onto the blackened tiles on the walls.An Israeli Occupation spokesperson has suggested that the fire may have been caused by an electical fault, a suggestion described as “a joke” by villagers. Situated as it is, close by the Jewish colony/settlements of Shilo, Male Livona and Bet El, Al Libban has long been the target of settler aggression and violence. Another mosque, in nearby Huwwara, has been vandalised in recent weeks, suggesting an emerging pattern of targeting mosques for desecration.
The cost of repairing and renovating the gutted building has been put at 500,000 shekels (about AU$175,000) an enormous sum for such an impoverished community. Nevertheless, the villagers are determined to regain their mosque as a functioning place of worship, just as they are determined not to be driven from their homes and their lands by Israel’s policy – and practice – of ethnic cleansing.