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
Collection of Palestinian dresses to be shown at Bay Area event
On Sunday, April 15, 2018, Northern California collector Betsy Rich-Gilon will present Threading Peace: The Embroidered Costumes of Palestine at the Alameda Free Library in Alameda, CA. The presentation will be in the library’s Stafford room from 2pm to 4pm.
Rich-Gilon has been collecting dresses for many years under the tutelage of Widad Kawar, an internationally renowned collector of Jordanian and Palestinian ethnic and cultural arts seeking to preserve a culture that has been largely dispersed by conflict. Kawar, who is in her 80s and lives in Amman, Jordan, has encouraged Rich-Gilon to carry on with her own research and collecting and asked her to bring the stories of Palestinian women to U.S. audiences. At the April 15 event, Rich-Gilon will present her unique collection of costumes, some from as early as circa 1900, and tell the remarkable stories revealed in their colors and patterns about the women who made them.
“The first time I saw these dresses they spoke to me,” Rich-Gilon says. “The dresses tell the Palestinian narrative of the women who gave them life. I am but their voice, their storyteller.”
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own embroidered dresses from Palestine and the greater Middle East region with accompanying stories to share.
The presentation is the third in a three-part Palestinian culture series at the Alameda Free Library this year. The first two were Bay Area documentary photographer Najib Joe Hakim’s beautiful and compelling multimedia storytelling project “Home Away from Home: Little Palestine by the Bay” (www.facebook.com/HomeFalastin/) and a reading by local author Joy Totah Hilden from her book A Passion for Learning: The Life Journey of Khalil Totah, a Palestinian Quaker Educator and Activist, a biography of her father’s fascinating life as an educator and activist on behalf of Palestinians as partition was debated at the United Nations.
For more on the photo exhibit, which is still on display, click here.
The series is cosponsored by Friends of Wadi Foquin and the Arab Cultural and Community Center of San Francisco.
Download a flyer for the April 15 event.
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."