Israel: Straw and Mud Mosque to be Demolished

International and local activists spent the night waiting for demolition crew to come and destroy a new straw and mud mosque built in an unrecognised village of Wadi el-Naam, Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Interior Ministry officials say the structure, built by an Israeli Bedoiun and other volunteers, is illegal since it was built without permission and in a place not designated for construction.

Bustan, an NGO that works in the Bedouin and Jewish communities of the Negev, called upon activists to sit in in the mosque, in a bid to stop the demolition – and document it, should the structure be torn down.

The NGO's website says:

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.

The site further explains:

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.

Blogger Josh was on site, with a camera in tow, to document what happened. He gives us a detailed first hand account and writes:

on Monday night I went out to the mosque in Wadi Naam and spent the night there with some other international people as a sit-in, in case they came in the morning. We were under strict instructions, both from Mahmoud and Ye’ela, that should they come we were not to chain ourselves to the doors, or lay in front of the bulldozers, or throw rocks, or hit the soldiers back when they hit us. We were simply to photograph and record the demolition, should it occur. Jewish Israelis, on the other hand, could sit in the mosque and refuse to leave, or lay in front of the bulldozers because they would just be arrested and released later that day, but we as foreigners would be deported for interfering with army operations.

Although the demolition team never showed up Josh notes:

This doesn’t mean we won. It means they didn’t want to destroy it in front of everyone, so they’ll probably come back next week and destroy it when no one’s there to document it. It won’t be a story because we’ve played our card and the press showed up, but they’re not going to schlep out there twice.

Another blogger, Jerusalem Gypsy adds:

We Jews have this tremendous yoke to carry. I try to take this “light unto the nations” bit quite seriously. And it depresses me when I read in the papers about the “thanks” certain people are getting for helping our country. For example, most recently I read that the State of Israel is about to raze a mosque that a Beduin IDF reservist built in an unrecognized Beduin village of Wadi el-Naam. It is build out of mud and straw and is an environmentally friendly structure. Could you imagine the outcry if a synagogue was about to be razed? The guy who built it served in the IDF from the age of 18 – 27. Now he says he wouldn't allow his son to serve in the army, and I don't blame him.


  • […] And Jews and Muslims come together to protect a new straw and mud built mosque from the government sent demolition crew. Read about it by clicking here. […]

  • Thanks for blogging this story, Amira. I’m glad to hear that people are coming together to try to protect the mosque, but sad and frustrated to hear that this is happening in the first place.

  • Hey guys –– whether you build something eco-friendly, historically relevant, religiously sensitive or just plain beautiful –– if you do it without a permit, it should come down. Screaming injustice and name-calling the Israeli government is so wrong. Israel is attempting to grow a civilized and democratic country and contrary to what most people see and read about, the government does demolish Jewish owned structures built without permits. You know why you don’t hear about it???? Because they know they did something wrong.

    (I have a friend in Tel Aviv, very rich…She decided to turn her patio into a baby’s room without a permit. Guess what? She returned from work one day and it was demolished.)

    I grew up in Canada, a country which reveres the liberties and freedom it bestows on its citizens. Along with such liberties, the good people of Canada know (whether they are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Druize, pagan, treehuggin’ or polluters) that before building ANYTHING, including a bike shed or a fence or a new straw bale home, the proper permits with the authorities (including fire department) must be arranged.

    I am truly very very tired of all this one-sided criticism of Israel done by left-wing fanatics who have little experience in this world and think anything Beduin, green or non-Israel or non-Jewish should be held in higher esteem than the values that Israel was built on. Show me another country in the Middle East that gives its citizins such liberties to even criticise its government.

    Such comments I see here are made by the people who appreciate civilized societies, but who would never trade places with the ones who are living in tents.

    That said –– I welcome you to come and visit mine:


  • Karin:
    A couple of things.
    First of all, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but from your comment I’m guessing not. For residents of the unrecognized villages, there is no legal process to attain a building permit. Doesn’t exist. There is no office to go to, no form to fill out, no official to talk to, it cant be done.
    It goes like this: ‘I’d like a permit to build a mosque.’ ‘Where do you live?’ “Wadi al-Naam.” “That is not a town as far as we are concerned, and you can’t build on state land, so there’s no permit to give you.” Hence the term ‘unrecognized.’
    So to say that they need to get permits reflects, actually, how little experience you have in this issue.

    “Screaming injustice and name-calling the Israeli government is so wrong.” So, who would you suggest we scream at? The Bedouin for having the audacity to build on their own land? Surely not the state whose blatantly prejudicial policies have created the situation in the first place, and surely not the government who decided to demolish the house.

    “Show me another country in the Middle East that gives its citizens such liberties to even criticize its government.” Show me another country in the middle east that routinely destroys the houses of citizens who have committed no crime. And honestly Karin, you want to be compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Iraq? If you talk about how ‘civilized’ Israel is and how democratic we are, lets compare Israel to western democracies.

    See, its not that we think that anything non-Jewish is so great. Its that the government seems to think that anything non-Jewish so wrong. Or such a threat to sovereignty. And that is why far more Arab houses than Jewish houses are demolished every year.

    And I’m sorry, but I grew up in Canada too, and ‘the good people of Canada’ are, in general, shocked and appalled by the Israeli government’s treatment of the Bedouin, and not the fact that the Bedouin build without permits.

    I’m not sure how this argument is ‘one-sided’, but perhaps you could clarify it for me. I really should be more even-handed and show the other side, like those poor paramilitary soldiers who have to leave the comfort of the city to come and knock down this eyesore?

    Left wing fanatic? Honey, if you think i’m a fanatic what would you call a centrist moderate, Avigdor Lieberman? And thank you very much, I have a great deal of experience in this world. Please don’t condescend to me because you dont like the fact that i advocate for people who are in the habit of getting stomped upon by their own government.

    That being said, please feel welcome to actually come to the villages.


  • Aida

    Josh, you have pointed out some AMAZING points which many people knowing and unknowing ignore. I 100% support each and every point your made. Here are some extremely poor people trying to some a bit of work to save the planet and yet we criticize them unknowingly of the situation there. I wish we all educate ourselves before criticizing the helpless.

    Best regards.

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