“You Would Weep”

The Rev. Michael Yoshii recently retired  as pastor of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, California. Long rooted in a Japanese-American community, in 2009 the church began a partnership with the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin, which is in the West Bank five miles southwest of Bethlehem. The relationship began with the church raising funds for a modest bee-keeping operation in the village. Several other churches in California joined the partnership, which is now supported by the the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Yoshii is co-chair of the Friends of Wadi Foquin, which in addition to supporting economic development in the village leads tours to Wadi Foquin and advocates for the village in Congress. Yoshii talks about how the partnership developed, what it seeks to do, and how Wadi Foquin has changed over the course of the last 12 years, with the village facing increasing threat from settlement expansion and run-off from a nearby settlement degrading the village’s water supply and agricultural land. He discusses how the church’s Japanese-American heritage influenced its response to the terror attacks of 9/11, leading the church to reach out to Muslims and Arabs following the attacks, concerned they would be targeted as Japanese-Americans were following Pearl Harbor. He speaks of what he has learned from Palestinians and says Americans need to have some sense of moral and spiritual accountability for the great harm they are doing with their unbridled support for Israel and its military occupation of the Palestine. Noting that Wadi Foquin is a microcosm of the larger situation in the West Bank, he says, “If you went there and saw it, you would weep that this is being done in our name.”

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