‘You can’t imagine what we are going through’, said Adam Manasra, referring to the pain inflicted on the small community of Wadi Foquin, in the wake of two recent killings by Israeli forces and a backdrop of demolitions, environmental poisoning and continued encroachment on the village lands.
It was a Tuesday evening in Palestine and Adam and several other young people from Wadi Foquin, a village to the Southwest of Bethlehem, had been invited to brief the Friends of Wadi Foquin group on recent developments in the village. Thousands of miles away in California, nearly 40 people had dialled in to hear from Adam and the other young people.
The Friends of Wadi Foquin group was established in 2009 by United Methodists in California. Over the past 13 years they had established a deep connection with the village, providing a combination of community development work, exchange visits and advocacy work. Their approach was guided each year by the priorities identified by the village, and by tapping into the Methodist Church network in California, and beyond, they had been able to fund a range of successful initiatives over the previous years.
Adam and his peers had prepared a detailed presentation to document the news from the village. It painted a bleak picture. One of the biggest challenges was dealing with the consequences of the plan for the population of the Beitar Ilit settlement, which loomed over the village, to increase from 60,000 to 100,000.
Already the settlement expansion had caused serious detrimental impacts to the environment. Building waste had been dumped on village land, killing crops; explosions had affected ground water; sewage and wastewater had polluted village land causing disease and several of the village’s natural springs had dried up. Taken together these amounted to catastrophic consequences for the livelihood of the village which depended primarily on agriculture.
Another pressing issue for the village is a new road which the Israeli authorities are planning to connect the settlements with Jerusalem. This road will isolate Wadi Foquin from neighbouring villages. The construction would also result in land losses which would not be compensated.
Noor, a young woman from the village, reported that in December 2021, 45 olives trees had been uprooted from village land and a further 30 were uprooted in March of this year. This land was far from the green line – the boundary with Israel – and her conclusion was, ‘they are doing this only to harm people’.
Destroying olive trees was a common tactic used across the West Bank and the organisation Visualising Palestine estimated that around 800,000 trees had been uprooted across Palestine between 1967 and 2003 – the equivalent of clearing Central Park of trees 33 times over.
This was clearly very distressing for the villagers of Wadi Foquin but more heart-breaking still were the recent killings in Husan, a village only a few kilometres from Wadi Fukin, which had sent shockwaves of grief through both communities.
Ghada Sabateen (aged 47) was shot and killed at a flying checkpoint on 10th April. She was a widower and mother of six children. Ghada had sight problems and was accused of approaching the checkpoint ‘in a suspicious manner’. It tragically cost her, her life.
Only three days later, Qusai Hamamrah, a 14-year-old boy was also shot and killed. It was reported that he was one of a group of young people throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers.
The increased presence of Israeli forces in Palestinian territories increased tensions and made avoidable deaths like these, more frequent. Adam and his peers called on the international community to back-up their twitter condolences with more concrete action to safeguard Palestinians on the ground.
Sadly, Wadi Foquin is not alone in facing problems with violence, environmental destruction, demolition and confiscations. In fact, these issues are replicated across the villages that surround Wadi Foquin: Husan, Battir, Nahalin, Al Walaja and further afield across the length and breadth of the West Bank.
Wadi Foquin is fortunate to have a group of dedicated Friends advocating for them from abroad, and the Friends of Wadi Foquin offers a successful model that other villages would do well to establish.
As 2022 rolls on, the Friends of Wadi Foquin will continue to advocate for the protection and preservation of the village of Wadi Foquin. Click here to find out ways you can support the village or contact FWF Co-Chair, Michael Yoshii at firstname.lastname@example.org.