Monthly Archives: August 2013

Wadi Foquin


Wadi Foquin: “On this earth ~ Ala hadhihi al-Ard”

August 17th, 2013 // 1:00 PM

Wadi Foquin village is located about eight kilometers to the west of Bethlehem and less that one kilometer from the Green Line (the internationally recognized border between Palestine and Israel). The village has approximately 1200 residents, and is famous for its grapes, almonds and olive oil, crucial to the villagers’ local economy. The semi-mountainous landscape also provides them with the land they require for grazing animals, particularly sheep.

Yesterday morning I was lucky enough to make a trip out to Wadi Foquin. In a valley between two peeks, Wadi Foquin is surrounded on the one side by the neighboring Israeli settlements, Hadar Betar and Betar Illit, and just past the Green Line on the other side lies the Israeli town of Mevo Betar. The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem states: “The close location of Hadar Betar and Betar Illit to the 1949 Armistice [Green] Line and their proximity to the Israeli town Mevo Betar on the other side of the line make these settlements likely targets for formal annexation to Israel in the future.”[1] The ever-increasing rate of confiscation of villager-land by the settlements certainly supports this statement, with the settlements having already confiscated more than 12% of the villager’s territory. (In the below images you can find the depiction of continued construction of settlements encroaching on the village).

I had heard a great deal about Wadi Foquin in Sacramento, especially this past April when the “Friends of Wadi Foquin” were invited by the Lantos Human Rights Commission to submit a proposal for a briefing on the human rights abuses in Wadi Foquin. (“The mission of the Lantos Human Rights Commission is to promote, defend, and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”)[2]

A good summary of the human rights violations being committed agains the residents of Wadi Foquin daily can be found on the website ( However, to witness striking and blatant evidence of these violations, the following one minute video (from just last month, in July 2013) records waste water from the sewage plant in Betar Illit being released onto the land of a local farmers in Wadi Fukin:

Walking through this land – a manifestation of the very roots of Palestinian existence on this earth – the words of Mahmoud Darwish kept cycling through my brain “On this earth, there is what deserves a life”. How could the existence of these villagers, and their heritage here – a genuine representation of all Palestinian people – be denied or negated in the face of such blaring evidence? I stood as a proud witness of this evidence: terraced hillsides constituting an agricultural system as old as time; an irrigation system based on flooding and gravity and a Roman well in the center of the agricultural territory still in use to irrigate the land; a local mosque, so old that it was in fact built upon a church constructed by Constantine’s mother, Helena, during her trip to the Holy Land in the 4th century AD, and later converted into the local masjid; an ancient Roman burial ground within the village territory, upon which no buildings are erected.

Before we departed from the village we went to visit the community center being renovated with the help of the Methodist Church’s presence in Palestine. There was no talk of human rights violations here, as young men worked energetically, piling bricks and mixing cement to construct a new wall and window for better airflow through community building. My friend, who has been working with Wadi Foquin for several years, say there is a new energy in the town now as a number of the youth of the wadi have been elected to the community council and are helping to rejuvenate and bring awareness to Wadi Foquin, both locally and internationally.


Roman cistern still in use to irrigate agricultural land, farmer adjusting the water flow for his day’s turn to water his land

Farmer’s water cisterns, sometime mixed with manure to prevent settlers from trespassing and swimming in them

Continues settlement construction over Wadi Foquin

Welcome to Wadi Foquin

Burning Palestine

Chapel, University of Bethlehem

Burning Palestine

August 14th, 2013 // 8:26 PM

It keeps getting hotter and hotter, a little bit each day. I have always been a fan of the heat, especially when given a choice between summer heat and winter chill, but I have also never before tried to stay productive in such lazy-summer, nap inducing temperatures. Luckily, being a desert climate, it gets relatively cool here in the evenings. There is only about one month remaining in my stay here, and I can’t believe the time has passed so quickly. The past two weeks have been a blur – starting two new courses at the university, conducting research for my graduate studies, trying to get things settled for repainting the signboard in manger square, and trying to get other projects off the ground. This would be a lot normally, but doing this under Palestine’s August sun has been quite the challenge.

As a refresher, I spent an evening earlier this week with friends who were kind enough to share another wonderful, home cooked meal of Maqlube (literally meaning “upside down” for the way the dish of rice and chicken or lamb is flipped over onto a plate before serving). The dinner was followed by coffee, tea and dessert, while listening to amazing stories about various experiences growing up in Palestine, the most captivating coming from my friend’s mother, a young woman during the first intifada. It is evenings such as these which bring me back to myself, and what I am really doing here in Bethlehem. The stress of homework, research, and projects all fall away in the face of such a surreal-reality. “We were children who were forced to become men and women overnight,” she said. “As important as they [our actions] were, those of us who lived through it … we don’t want that for our children. The best way for them to fight for our freedom is through their education. They will go out into the world and show who we – the Palestinians – are.” And they will come back and build Palestine. Hearing her speak, this incredible women, who (just as an example) would sew Palestinian flags during the resistance – illegal and punished through imprisonment during the first intifada – I thought of Rafeef Ziadah in her poem, “We Teach Life, Sir” (

It’s very difficult to not feel the pressure of the sun above and the pressure of the walls around, especially now with the “peace talks,” which appear to mask further land confiscations for settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yesterday’s release of 26 prisoners is bittersweet. Many Palestinians are not blind to this “benevolent” strategy used to appease not the Palestinians, but rather the remotely-cognisant international community, and yet another means of masking Israel’s ongoing transgressions in any peace proceedings. But just like at the end of the day, when the sun recedes and a cool breeze sneaks through the open window, the lingering hope remains that there will be an end to the sweltering heat, and that dusk is just a sunset away.