United Methodist Reverend brings the struggles of Wadi Foquin to Washington DC

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The Rev. Michael Yoshii (Photo by Paul Hilton)

Reverend Michael Yoshii, Senior Pastor of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, California, is heading off to Washington DC today to meet with the House of Representatives Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Rev. Yoshii is meeting with US officials on behalf of the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin near Bethlehem. Wadi Foquin’s economy has been strangled due to the theft of 94% of their village land and the occupation. Rev. Yoshi and the Buena Vista United Methodist Church congregation stepped in to make a difference and soon thereafter other local churches and Bay Area residents joined in. More on how below, first…

Oakland Tribune:

“We’re looking for the Lantos Commission to set up a hearing about the human rights violations,” said Yoshii, who also eyes a potential trip to New York at an unspecified time. “We’re also leaning toward a hearing with the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

 

“Over the years, Betar Illit has grown from 10,000 to 40,000 people,” Yoshii said. “It has encroached on Palestinian land, sewage has seeped in from Betar Illit, and construction debris also has hurt by drying up water springs.”

As a result, Yoshii and fellow Wadi Foquin advocates contend, much of the village’s agricultural land has been damaged. Construction of separation walls also has hampered communities such as Wadi Foquin, whose residents not only lose more land, but find their movement restricted. Subjected to random checkpoints, those living in Wadi Foquin find themselves cut off from neighboring villages and important roads, thus hampering commerce as well as access to jobs, schools and medical facilities.

Support for Palestinian villages such as Wadi Foquin often stirs controversy. But advocates look at the matter beyond any political or demographic considerations.

“It’s a human-to-human thing,” Yoshii said. “It’s quite heart-wrenching when you see the conditions under which the people are living. Our focus is on them.”

Three years ago, Wadi Foquin advocates (known as “Friends of Wadi Foquin”) began the Beehive Project, which purchased beehives for the village to use in the production of honey as a means to a livelihood. In addition, the Friends of Wadi Foquin set up a community center in the village from a house that had been abandoned.

“Some things are better because (Wadi Foquin residents) are getting help, but in the bigger picture, things are worse,” Yoshii said. “They would like to have a regular life like you and me. We want for them what we want for ourselves.”

In August 09 the Buena Vista United Methodist Church entered into a Sister Village Partnership with Wadi Foquin through the Wadi Foquin Bee Hive Project. The congregation kicked off their project with “Bee Hive Sunday” which included a prayer ritual where participants wrote messages on origami bees for the people of Wadi Foquin. Their project provides beehives to the village for the cultivation of honey. It has since grown to include other local churches and Bay Area residents.

Although I do not know Rev. Yoshii personally I know of him as he is a popular, well loved person in the Bay Area. I was in attendance when he led a prayer on the first anniversary of the 08-09 Gaza Massacre in memory of all who died in that tragedy. He is a cherished and respected citizen and his work on human rights issues has won him awards and accolades over the years.

May the force be with you Rev. Yoshi.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in Israel/Palestine, US Politics | Tagged

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. joemowrey says:

    I’ve been to Wadi Foquin. In fact, the sewage from Betar Illit’s waste treatment plant which “seeps in” to the fields of Wadi Foquin comes from an overflow pipe which is deliberately engineered to come out of a hillside above the village and spill down directly into the village’s farm lands. On a fairly regular basis, partially untreated effluent from the plant is pumped onto Wadi Foquin’s fields. In this instance (and in many similar situations around the West Bank) the Zionist settlers are literally shitting on the Palestinians. Like so many aspects of the colonization of Palestinian land, this disgusting behavior in almost impossible to believe. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  2. RE:‘Over the years, Betar Illit has grown from 10,000 to 40,000 people,’ Yoshii said. ‘It has encroached on Palestinian land, sewage has seeped in from Betar Illit, and construction debris also has hurt by drying up water springs.’” ~ article in the Oakland Tribune

    DICK CHENEY SEZ: “So?”
    ♦ “So?” says Dick Cheney [VIDEO, 00:51] – link to youtube.com

    DONALD RUMSFELD SEZ: “Stuff happens and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”
    ♦ “Stuff Happens!” – Rumsfeld on looting after fall of Baghdad [VIDEO, 00:27] – link to youtube.com

  3. Les says:

    Do we never hear of synagogues that push their rabbis to do as people like Rev. Yoshi do, because such synagogues do not exist?

    • Elliot says:

      @ Les – it’s not clear to me from the article that the Buena Vista congregation is the moving force behind Rev. Yoshi. It could well be the other way round. Certainly, a progressive Methodist church is not going to have the resistance to Palestinian rights that a politically similar Jewish congregation will have.

  4. Clif Brown says:

    Annie, thanks very much for posting this. I have had zero luck getting either of the two pastors of the largest Methodist church in the area (the sanctuary could easily seat 1000) to even respond to my queries to them (beyond “I’ll get back to you”) about the decisions of the church’s General Assembly on Palestinian issues compared to the lack of action from most congregations to support them. I will copy this post of yours and mail it, allowing them to see that some Methodist clergy are not passive in the face of injustice, just as was the case of a certain person 2000 years ago that is the model upon which they claim to live their lives.

    • thanks clif, there are other (many) methodist clergy and congregations active in speaking the truth about palestine and israel.

      when i lived in seattle the methodist church right around the corner from my home (literally 2 blocks away), i found it by coincidence desiring to go to a service one christmas and was really amazed at the sermon ( about the holy land) as i had no idea how progressive services could be..not being a church person. here is something rev lang wrote a few years ago:

      link to realchangenews.org

      Israel as a nation is a mess. Within its own borders it practices a ruthless and relentless apartheid alongside an utter disregard of world values. Through its intelligence agencies it continually inserts itself in the business of other nations. It plays a huge role in brokering arms deals throughout the Middle East and was pivotal in our invasion of Iraq. It has an overwhelmingly militaristic influence on our foreign policy, and has crafted a diabolical alliance with right-wing Christianity to culturally influence our political structure and undermine any notion of compassion toward the other. In other words, Israel and America are hand in glove.

      This Friday and Saturday (Feb. 19-20) Sabeel, an organization founded by Palestinian Christian theologian Naim Ateek, will host a major conference, “What Does Justice Require of Us?” at St. Mark’s Cathedral (for more information on Sabeel, go to http://www.fosna.org). The conference will focus on relationships between the United States, Israel and Palestine. It will include workshops on theology alongside the thorny political issues of water rights, civil rights, the role of the media, and the increased militarism of the entire region.

      and to get an idea of his passion check out this video: link to youtube.com

      furthermore, i was introduced to another church right in my neighborhood here in san anselmo, a presbyterian church that takes congregants to palestine to help with the olive harvests. they told me that unless palestinians continue working there land a minimum of a certain amount every year they lose it. they also hosted a sabeel conference. and in new mexico, even tho the first church dropped the sabeel conference another church opened there doors. so there are churches all over this country whopray for peace in palestine and take a pro active position putting words to action. i think that is abundantly clear given the recent letter to congress and the strength in the face of Jewish establishment uproar. the churches are some of our best most secure allies. i hope you find a church in your region who will stand up for what is right and apply the kind of pressure that is needed to end this ugly horrible wound in the holy land.

      i was blown away by Reverend Yoshii when i attended the vigil in SF for victims of the gaza massacre. i don’t know why, but somehow i did not anticipate members of the asian christian community to be standing up so prominently and passionately for justice in palestine. it opened my eyes to how vast and beautiful the christian community is. it really does take a village, a global village of all faiths and people like myself who are secular. but even i do have faith. faith in humanity thru people, leader like Yoshii. we just have to find eachother and believe in eachother, because we are the majority, i know we are.

    • Les says:

      In their Presidential primary campaigns four years ago, both Methodist Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards made clear their support for taxpayer funding of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Not all practicing Methodists are practicing Christians.