Wadi Fuqeen: Palestine’s Valley of Hope and Despair

Film by Joshka Wessels, Jakob Schiller and Lubna Sharief

The Story

The Israeli occupation deprives Palestinians of their water resources, illegal settlements continue to pour raw sewage into the many valleys of the occupied West Bank. Villages are being imprisoned by an eight-metre-high wall, with severe environmental and human impact. There is a sense of utter despair, but in some pockets there is a little hope.

The village of Wadi Fuqeen is a valley inside the Palestinian occupied territories. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the valley as the best preserved natural heritage site of its kind in the West Bank.

But the valley is threatened by the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli separation wall. The wells in the valley have dried up and the valley is contaminated with raw sewage.

Villagers from the valley have worked together with their neighbours from the Israeli village Tsur Hadassah to campaign against the planned construction of the wall and continuous building of the illegal Israeli ultra-orthodox settlement of Bitar Illit. They are saving their shared valley together. They are doing this with the help of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian environmental non-governmental organization. This unique friendship gives hope for peace in times of despair.

The film follows the struggle and success of the peoples of Wadi Fuqeen and Tsur Hadassah. A short version of the film was broadcast in November 2010 on Al Jazeera English TV channel.

Video link: http://youtu.be/kVZP0UL4ayk

In September 2011, we will organize a community screening tour with the longer version of the film. We will work together with the Palestinian Social Cinema Arts Association to visit villages in the occupied West Bank with a mobile cinema truck and to screen the film inside the West Bank. We will cooperate with B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, to visit Israeli villages to screen the longer version of the film.

Our other partners in this effort are the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH) that launched the Thirsting for Justice campaign for Palestinian Water Rights and the Friends of Wadi Fuqeen.

The impact

The screening tour will make people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aware of the damage to the environment done by the Israeli occupation. It stresses the importance of ecological peace between and . The environment knows no borders and if there is no awareness of the severe damage to the environment done by the Israeli occupation, the consequences might lead to an ultimate lose-lose situation for both sides and both peoples.

Why I am making this film

When I heard about the story of Wadi Fuqeen, I realized the friendship between people from Wadi Fuqeen and Tsur Hadassah is a unique story in the midst of a hostile environment. The story is not widely covered in the mainstream media. This unique friendship gives a little hope for the much-longed-for peace. Having lived, worked and travelled in the Middle East since 1997, the story touched my heart and I wanted to tell this story to a wider audience.

People like Abu Mazen and Tammi, the two protagonists of the film, are amazing human beings who proof that being human connects and true caring for the preservation of a shared natural environment transcends all religious, political, cultural and historical differences. Meeting them was an honour and I hope by telling their story, viewers realise that an important part of people living inside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really want a genuine peace between them because they are just like you and me. They want a sustainable future for their children.