This story was edited Oct. 7, 11:18 a.m. to clarify the information in the article.
Ceremonial dirt was tossed recently at the future site of Temecula’s newest house of worship, the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley.
Grading is scheduled to begin this week in preparation for the slab of a 4,100- square-foot building that will serve as phase one of the mosque, according to Hadi Nael, chairman of the construction committee for the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley.
The city of Temecula granted ICTV its grading permit Oct. 4 with the stipulation that the slab is poured by Dec. 1, Nael said during an interview with Patch Friday at the Nicolas Road site.
Originally from Lebanon, Nael moved to Murrieta 23 years ago and was among the founding families of ICTV 14 years ago. As such, the reality brought by a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the long-planned facility has been emotional for him.
“It has been a blessing to be a part of it,” said Nael, who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley from 2010 to 2012.
The congregation is about 180 members strong and currently meets in a commercial building on Hobie Circle in Murrieta. Its members are funding the project, he said.
“This is from the money we have collected over the last 14 years,” Nael said. “From the ladies—we called them sisters—who took the gold necklaces from their necks and gave it to the mosque.
From the little girl who gave her bracelet and the 7-year-old boy who took money out of his piggy bank—we don’t have any rich uncles or rich friends. This is basically everybody.”
Nael has been on the mosque construction committee since 2007.
In December 2010 and January 2011, the congregation went through marathon public hearings with the city of Temecula prior to getting approval to build.
Some members of the public were concerned about extra traffic near the 4.32-acre site situated on the corner of Calle Medusa and Nicolas Road, right next door to Calvary Baptist Church.
Nael said he has reached out to the neighboring house of worship, offering them the use of the ICTV parking lot once it is completed.
He explained that the Islamic Center would hold services from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Fridays, while the Baptist church meets on Sundays.
“We have to extend a helping hand,” he said.
The land was purchased 12 years ago, said Nael.
After the mosque plans were approved last January, Nael said a hydrology report was needed before grading could begin.
Phase one of the mosque project should be completed by the end of 2013, Nael said.
More funds will need to be collected to then build a 21,000-square-foot building, he said.
In the meantime, Nael and the rest of the congregation are hopeful the initial slab for the smaller building will be completed on schedule by Dec. 1.
“Otherwise our permit expires,” Nael said. “When it expires by the law, the city has to send notices to all the surrounding homes saying ‘Islamic Center of Temecula Valley’s permit expired’…and when that happens that would trigger another public hearing and neither the city nor us want that.”
He is keeping faith that they will surpass the hurdle, he said.
“This has been a very joyful experience. When you serve the creator you can get up in the morning and know you are protected. When you are in a situation and everyone wants to shoot at you, you need the protection of the creator to make it happen.”
Nael thanked the city of Temecula, the Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley school districts and the Interfaith Council of Murrieta and Temecula Valley for attending a groundbreaking ceremony and appreciation banquet.
“They are the true voice of our community, the voice of tolerance, mutual respect and equal opportunity for all,” Nael said. “We hope for those who have misunderstanding of our religion and our people to get more education and interaction with the true teaching of Islam and Muslims and reject bigotry and stereotypes.”