ALAMEDA -- As an issue that took root decades before the official establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has perplexed and frustrated generations of foreign affairs and human rights experts.
Even today, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks to keep peace talks going to broker an agreement, conditions in the region for many Palestinians continue to deteriorate. Wadi Foquin serves as a case in point.
Located just west of Bethlehem, this village of an estimated 1,200 inhabitants has a reputation for its agricultural products. But that reputation might not last much longer. In fact, the entire village might not last. Despite a history that dates back many centuries, Wadi Foquin finds itself increasingly threatened by the continuing expansion of Betar Illit, an Orthodox Jewish settlement established in 1984 that many consider illegal.
Some in the international community, including a group of East Bay churches -- Alameda's Buena Vista United Methodist Church among them -- have organized support for Wadi Foquin.
Their Save Wadi Foquin campaign continues to gain momentum. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, whose district includes Alameda, will sponsor a briefing in Washington, D.C., to address the village's plight. The 90-minute event will include presentations from Palestinian and Israeli supporters of Wadi Foquin. Among the attendees will be longtime advocate Rev. Michael Yoshii of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church.
"The way we're framing (the briefing) is that of a joint effort to show that (the present situation) is unsustainable and unproductive," said Yoshii, who will leave for Washington on Friday.
Wadi Foquin, a community on the West Bank of the Jordan River, serves as a microcosm of the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Wadi Foquin's case, some 94 percent of its land falls under Israeli control. Through the years, the village has seen much of its land annexed for the expansion of Betar Illit and the construction of a separation wall.
Runoffs from construction debris have damaged some of Wadi Foquin's land. So has raw sewage from Betar Illit.
In actuality, the citizens of Wadi Foquin had long enjoyed good relations with their Israeli neighbors of Tsur Hadassa. But the presence of checkpoints has made movement difficult and prevented the people of Wadi Foquin from selling their fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, many people have had to leave the village. Many have even taken jobs in Betar Illit, some of them in the construction that continues to eat away at their home village. And unless an accord can be reached, the situation will likely only get bleaker.
"There have been some setbacks (since we began our advocacy campaign last year)," Yoshii said. "(Wadi Foquin residents) have orders to close down a playground, and there was a closure of an access road -- these were just in the last couple of months."
Yoshii initially made a trip to Wadi Foquin in 2006, and a partnership with the village -- Friends of Wadi Foquin -- began in 2009. Friends of Wadi Foquin launched the Beehive Project to provide village residents a chance for an alternative livelihood through the production of honey. An abandoned house also became a community center for the village.
Closer to home, the Buena Vista United Methodist Church's dedication to a cause half a world away occasionally raises eyebrows. But locally, the church partners with the Alameda Point Collaborative, which seeks to help people overcome the problems of poverty and homelessness.
For Yoshii and many members of his congregation, however, the situation in Wadi Foquin strikes political chords -- "much of the suffering of people in Wadi Foquin is a result of our own complicity as U.S. citizens when we silently condone the situation taking place there," Yoshii said -- and personal ones.
"For me personally, displacement and dislocation is in our family narrative as Japanese Americans -- and that is the case for some of our members as well," said Yoshii, who is of Japanese descent, recalling the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. "But I think, more important, as we have become friends, we would not wish these conditions on anyone -- it is inhumane and unjust -- so as part of our Christian faith we are engaged in advocating for their rights to live as anyone else would want."