ALAMEDA -- Rev. Michael Yoshii, pastor of Alameda's Buena Vista United Methodist Church, first visited the Palestinian West Bank of Wadi Foquin in 2006 and found it a moving experience.

While there, Yoshii witnessed the everyday struggles of the people, who dealt with continuing Israeli annexation of their land and the destruction of their remaining lands by construction runoffs and the dumping of raw sewage from the expanding Israeli village of Betar Illit.

In response, the Buena Vista United Methodist Church joined with other East Bay churches to help organize Friends of Wadi Foquin, launch the Save Wadi Foquin campaign and start the Beehive Project to help villagers make a living through honey production. Through the years, the general public also became increasingly aware of Wadi Foquin's plight.

On Nov. 19, a briefing took place in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to address this issue. Yoshii was among those attending.

"We were quite happy with the trip," Yoshii said. "It was beyond what we hoped for."

The briefing of about 90 minutes included presentations from two Wadi Foquin residents and an Israeli from the neighboring village of Tsur Hadassa, who spoke in support of Wadi Foquin (Tsur Hadassa and Wadi Foquin have long enjoyed a strong bond -- residents of Tsur Hadassa often buy their produce from those of Wadi Foquin).

In all, Yoshii expected a turnout of maybe about 20 people. Actual attendance far exceeded those projections.

"We had over 100 people," Yoshii said. "There were over 50 legislative offices represented by staffers."

A village of some 1,200 people, Wadi Foquin had established a reputation for its fruits and vegetables, but sits on the "Green Line" that separates Palestinian territories from Israel.

As Betar Illit -- an Orthodox Jewish settlement established in 1984 that many in the international community consider illegal -- keeps growing and the building of separation walls continues, Wadi Foquin finds its existence threatened. Checkpoints stifle travel and commerce, and many Wadi Foquin residents have to find employment elsewhere, including Betar Illit, often in the construction work that eats away at their home village.

"For some (who attended the briefing), it was an affirmation of what they already knew," Yoshii said, "for others, it was eye-opening. That's our goal, to educate others."

Even as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks to have Israeli and Palestinian representatives reach a peace accord, Yoshii will continue to help spearhead the campaign for the betterment of life in Wadi Foquin. "Our goal is to have intervention to what's going on," Yoshii said. "If the peace talks resolve things, great. But for us, the peace talks can't be the end-all, be-all."

In all, Wadi Foquin serves as a microcosm of the many challenges faced by Palestinian villages along the West Bank.

"We'll continue to do our work based on the hope that some fruit will be borne out of our efforts," Yoshii said. "It's part of our Christian faith to have hope. But it's a slow process. It's a step-by-step process. It's good that more people know about Wadi Foquin. But there's still more to go. We just need to keep moving and keep building on the efforts we have created."

FYI
For more about the briefing, go to Mondoweiss at http://mondoweiss.net/2013/11/palestinians-capitol-audience.html. Audio of the speakers at the briefing can be heard at http://yourlisten.com/zaid.benjamin/the-story-of-wadi-foquin.