Above: Village elder Yusef Manassra facing the illegal Israeli settlement that threatens the future of Wadi Foquin. Yusef was 25 in 1948 when the Israeli army evacuated the village, forcing residents first into nearby hills and then into a UN refugee camp. In 1972, when villagers were allowed to return and rebuild, he vowed he would never be forced out of his home again. Yusef lived in Wadi Foquin until his death at age 95 on May 11, 2017. —Photo by Jakob Schiller
Ecumenical group calls for an end to the violence against Palestinians
In response to recent violence committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians in Gaza, the Washington, DC–based ecumenical network Faith Forum on Middle East Policy has issued an alert urging U.S. Christians and “all persons of conscience” to contact their senators and representatives to call for an end to the violence. On March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza initiated the “Great March of Return,” with nonviolent demonstrations calling for their internationally recognized right to return to lands from which their families were displaced in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. That event 70 years ago, referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe), resulted in the displacement and dispossession of more than 750,000 Palestinians, forcing them to become refugees. Israel has never allowed them or their descendants to return.
Since the first demonstration on March 30, at least 111 Palestinians have been killed and about 12,000 people have been wounded, according to Al Jazeera. The highest number of casualties occurred on May 14, the same day the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv, the recognized capital of Israel, to Jerusalem. Until President Trump initiated the embassy move, most of the international community did not have embassies in Jerusalem as the city is claimed as a capital by both Palestinians and Israelis. The move has effectively ended Palestinian trust in any US-brokered arrangement for a just peace in the Middle East.
The Faith Forum alert, which includes a sample letter, is a follow-up to a statement co-signed by 14 Christian denominations, including the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, affirming the “rights of refugees, the right to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, and the right to live in and with dignity, not under closed military confinement or blockade.” According to the statement, “more than 1.3 million of Gaza’s nearly 2 million people are refugees.” The Israeli blockade of Gaza, now in its 11th year, has devastated Gaza’s economy and largely cut off residents from the outside world.
In addition to calling for an end to the violence, the alert asks the State Department to investigate how US military aid to Israel is being used, calls for an end to the blockade and for humanitarian relief to be extended to the people of Gaza, and expresses support for policies that promote the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.
For more information, contact Friends of Wadi Foquin co-chair Rev. Michael Yoshii at firstname.lastname@example.org or communications coordinator Julie Harris at email@example.com. Friends of Wadi Foquin is a partnership with the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin, a United Methodist advance site in the West Bank, that also provides education about the larger context of the Israeli occupation.
Update on 2017 Capitol Hill Briefing
Above, from left: Wadi Foquin Mayor Sokar, U.S. Rep. McCollum, and Bethlehem Mayor Salman
The Friends of Wadi Foquin held a successful briefing on Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C., for U.S. congressional staff to meet Palestinian mayors Ahmad Sokar of Wadi Foquin and Anton Salman of Bethlehem. The mayors spoke powerfully about the devastating impact of Israeli settlements on their West Bank communities and reminded attendees that it is U.S. policy to oppose the settlements. We were also able to meet privately with several legislative representatives, including Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who introduced legislation (HR 4391) to end U.S. tax support of Israeli military detention of Palestinian children that same week. As a follow-up to our visits, we are asking legislators to contact the State Department to request the Consul General in Jerusalem visit Mayor Sokar in Wadi Foquin and intervene in the announced expansion of the settlement of Betar Illit. The mayor will contact the Consul General directly, and support from legislative offices will serve to reinforce his request. More will be forthcoming on how you can support this effort.
A significant and timely meeting was also held with the new PLO Ambassador, Dr. Husam Zomlot. In addition to recognizing the significance of our interfaith relationship with Wadi Foquin, Zomlot stressed the importance of Mayor Salman’s presence and voice in Washington as a Palestinian Christian. He told us the PLO office will be hosting “A Bethlehem Christmas on the Hill” holiday party at the congressional office building on Dec. 6 as a reminder of the Palestinian Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Thanks to Churches for Middle East Peace, Faith Forum, and the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, which co-sponsored the briefing and helped arrange meetings. Click here for a GBCS report on the briefing.
Below, from left: FOWF co-chair Michael Yoshii; Wadi Foquin Mayor Sokar; PLO Ambassador Zomlot; Bethlehem Mayor Salman; Rev. Mike Friedrich, FOWF pilgrimages co-coordinator; and Janet Lahr Lewis, General Board of Global Ministries Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle East and former United Methodist missionary to Israel and Palestine.
Wadi Foquin is the site of a community development project supported through the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries (Advance project #3021565). A resolution supporting Wadi Foquin was passed at the church's May 2016 General Conference acknowledging the challenges of settlement expansion and recent land confiscation orders. The resolution calls for accountability from the Israeli government for the destruction of land and life in Wadi Foquin. It also calls on U.S. officials to contact the Israeli government to immediately halt the illegal Israeli settlements and confiscation of Palestinian land.
2 of 6 units funded
Support the new guesthouse project in Wadi Foquin
Friends of Wadi Foquin's fundraising efforts in 2018 are focused on the new guesthouse project in the village. Your contributions will help fund construction of visitor accommodations on land vulnerable to confiscation, generating needed income while serving as a deterrent to further land annexation. For the people of the village, their continued existence is a form of resistance to the settlement expansion and Israeli military occupation. Each guesthouse will cost $7,000 to build. As each $7,000 is raised, a new guesthouse will be built. The goal is to build six of them. Please help us meet that goal. As of mid-March, we had raised enough to build two of the units. Your gifts can be made online through the General Board of Global Ministries Advance program (Advance project #3021565) or by check to BMU-FOWF with “guesthouse” in the memo line (mail to Jean Hart, FOWF Treasurer, 730 Tree Top Lane, Auburn, CA 95603).
2018 trip rescheduled to November
Dates of the 2018 Friends of Wadi Foquin pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine, including a visit to the village, have been changed to Nov. 5–16. Click here for a flyer with the general itinerary and contact information.
New road opens in Wadi Foquin
Wadi Foquin Mayor Ahmad Sokar speaking at the Aug. 24, 2017, inauguration of a new road built in the village by USAID/ANERA—a project initiated during the mayor's visit to Washington, DC, in 2014—plus before and after photos. For a short video of the celebration, click here .
Grass installed on Wadi Foquin's soccer field
Use of Wadi's Foquin's new soccer field can resume now that grass has been installed with help from the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports. Play had been temporarily suspended during installation. The Green Valley Club, a young men's soccer team fielded by the Wadi Foquin Youth Club, trains on the field for games with other teams in the West Bank.
The nearby playground has also been expanded to the southern wall of the soccer field, providing space for large village meetings and for dancing.
The soccer field was largely funded by donations made through Friends of Wadi Foquin and the United Methodist Advance #3021565. According to community development director Ata Manasra, "It is the most important project we have done with Friends of Wadi Foquin."