Photo by Kim See | The Falcon
Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian Christian farmer and the founder of The Tent of Nations, a campsite and summer camp located on Daher’s Vineyard, the farm land the Nassar family owns.
Daoud Nassar and his family have been in an ongoing legal battle for 26 years.
In October of 1991, the family learned that Israel was planning to confiscate their land. They learned of this by chance when a nearby village resident happened to pass them in the street and mention that he had seen the Israeli military authorities surveying and marketing the family’s land.
The area the farm is on is surrounded on three sides by newly established settlements who intend to use the land for their own government-sanctioned expansion and will receive all the necessary water resource, electricity and construction permits to do so.
On several occasions, Israeli soldiers have prevented them on several occasions from working on their land; one particular incident involved Israelis threatening the family’s lives if they were to continue their work.
On another occasion, Israeli soldiers destroyed 250 trees, but Nassar and his family managed to plant new ones. At one point, settlers tried to buy the land from Nassar, but he told them, “You cannot sell your soul.”
Despite these difficulties, the family has succeeded in cultivating the land and is proud of their determination to remain where they are in the face of Israeli threats.
In fulfillment to his father’s dream to establish an institution for the building of peace and coexistence on the family land, Nassar founded The Tent of Nations. Its mission is to build bridges both between people and each other and between people and the land.
To talk about his experiences of nonviolent resistance as a Palestinian Christian, Nassar was brought to campus by Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). His talk began at 9:30 a.m. in Demaray 358 on Friday, Oct. 20.
Nassar recalls one occasion when a couple came to the farm. The first thing they said was that they were neighbors and they wanted to visit.
While he welcomed them, he also remembers telling them that neighbors not only greet each other, but they must be treated equally.
“What do you mean?” the couple asked.
While the couple had a pool, Nassar and his family had no drinking water, relying on rainwater for their supply. The couple did not know and there was a sense of misinformation.
As noted by Reverend Mae Cannon, the executive director for CMEP, the Palestinians make up the largest refugee population.
With key issues such as border establishment, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Palestinian right of return, etc., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can arguably be traced back to the Oslo Accords of 1993. These accords marked the start of the Oslo process, a peace process focused on achieving a peace treaty.
In facing these various obstacles and struggles, Nassar has wrestled with how to respond.
There are three normal responses when people face adversity, Nassar explained. People get violent, become resigned or choose to run away. But in contemplating these options,
Nassar decided that there is another option: to be strong and resist without resorting to violence.
Mulling this idea over, he articulated principles to live by. He refuses to be a victim but also refuses to hate, because by hating one another, “we destroy ourselves.” Instead, one must act differently, to have faith and believe in justice, to be empowered to get through the struggles.
The farm land was originally bought in 1916 by Nassar’s grandfather, Daher Nassar.
Per the accords, the Nassar family land is located southwest of Bethlehem in the West Bank, in “Area C,” an area not totally controlled by Israel.
Israel requires a permit for all permanent infrastructure development, and currently such permits are only granted to Jewish settlements located in the area. The land is also not connected to the power grid or to public water, and because of the concrete wall Israel is building, the land will soon be totally cut off from the rest of Palestine.
When land or trees are destroyed, instead of viewing the situation in a negative light, Nassar and his family have chosen to think positively. They focus on building things back up, on planting new trees.
This is one of the purposes of The Tent of Nations, to make the land a center for people to come together and build bridges of trust and hope.
“We refuse to be enemies,” Nassar said.
The Tent of Nations is a campsite and summer camp on a farm known as Daher’s Vineyard, after Daher Nasser, the grandfather of the present owners. The farm is situated near the Arab village of Nahalin, just off the main road (Route 60) between Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank. Nasser bought the land in 1916 but, despite an Israeli Supreme Court decision, it has remained the target of attempted land grabs by settlers for nearly two decades. The Nasser family is unable to get planning permission to build on the land, so the accommodation for volunteers and summer camps is in specially-constructed tents and caves. Volunteer roles include helping to tend the orchards, looking after livestock, teaching English at the women’s empowerment project, youth work with Palestinian youngsters during the summer camps or digging water-storage cisterns. Tent of Nations is also one of the few West bank organisations happy to accept short-term as well as long-term volunteers. Accommodation March to November only.
Daoud’s website: TentofNations.org
Friends of Tent of Nations North America: FOTONNA.org
**See this article on The Falcon’s website!