Current Newsletter

FOTONNA NEWSLETTER – March 5, 2021

Update from Daoud – March 1, 2021:

Greetings from the Tent of Nations!

We are facing the third wave of Covid 19. Every day we hear about new cases, the hospitals are full of patients and some are in critical situation.  We have closures on Fridays and Saturdays, and the government is planning to have another lockdown soon and for two weeks. Still waiting for the vaccine; they promised to get it in March/April, but until then, the situation continues to be difficult.  

No one is talking about annexation at the moment, but the facts on the ground are being created without big noise in the media.  Israeli settlements are being expanded, and the focus now is on constructing and expanding of roads connecting the settlements south of Jerusalem with one another and with Jerusalem.  The big plan is to connect the Gush Etzion Settlement block with Jerusalem as a preparation for annexing the whole area south of Jerusalem.  

The settlements around the Tent of Nations are also expanding.  Many new apartments are added north of Neve Daniel as well as in the west in the biggest settlement, Bitar Ilit.  More buildings are also added to the Yeshiva close to where the road is blocked.

We are still waiting for the decision of the Military Committee regarding the re-registration processes.  Their meeting was held on February 1 and until now we didn’t hear anything back from them.  Our lawyer sent to them two reminders but still no answers yet.  I will keep you updated as soon as I hear from the lawyer and depending on what their decision is, we will inform you about the next steps and will ask you to take some actions.

The other challenge that the Tent of Nations is facing right now is the continuation of the attacks from one Palestinian family from Nahalin on the farm.  They are claiming that part of the Nassar farm belongs to them.  On February 26, they sent some of their young people to put a fence up on part of our land and to plant olive trees.  Immediately we reported that to the police, but no serious actions are taken yet.  We are suffering under a weak legal system.  

Still, we try to continue with our work at the farm.  We are now in the planting season and trying to finish up with pruning the grapes and other fruit trees.  We had a good rain this year; we managed to fill all the cisterns in preparation for the long hot summer.

Since March 2020, we have no visitor groups and/or volunteers at the Tent of Nations.  It is really sad to see the Tent of Nations without visitor groups and volunteers.  We pray and hope for the world to get rid of this pandemic so that life will get back to normal.  This is our main hope for this year.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and for your continuous support.  Thank you so much for your commitment to walk side by side with us on our long journey for justice.

Blessings and Salaam – Daoud

  • Statement of Solidarity:

In light of the current events taking place on Daher’s Vineyard, David Benedict (a member of our Advisory Council) suggested that, as friends of Tent of Nations, we indicate a heightened level of support for the Nassar family at this time.  With some modifications to David’s original statement, we offer the following in partnership with the FOTONNA Steering Committee and members of the Advisory Council:

A STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE NASSAR FAMILY

AND TENT OF NATIONS

As the Nassar family continues its non-violent approach in efforts to re-register the farm in their name, and as there is increased pressure from the Palestinian family in Nahalin, we stand with and support them for the following reasons:

  • their stated mission “to change hearts and to build bridges between people and the land and the land and people” while also “Refusing to be Enemies;”
  • their local service programs, the Children’s Summer Camp and the Women’s Empowerment Project, along with the hundreds of international volunteers that work there;
  • their legal, non-violent and compassionate pursuit of justice through the available judicial systems even through the escalation of incursions on the land and challenges by the Israeli Military Courts;
  • their steadfast persistence to make the Tent of Nations serve as a light on that West Bank hilltop shining Love, Hope, Faith and Peace to conflicted and needy parts of the world;
  • their receipt of one of the two World Methodist Council’s Peace Awards for 2017;
  • their winning of one of the Franco-German Prizes for Human Rights and the Rule of Law in 2018; and
  • their welcoming of over ten-thousand tourists and pilgrims from many nations who visit each year to be blessed with the message of non-violence and peace so needed in the world today.

As friends of Tent of Nations, we want to simply say to the Nassar family:  “We are here for you, and we want to be called on in any way that we can to assist you in your work for peace in our world today.”

  • From the Desk of FOTONNA’s Executive Director:

Dear Friends,

I bring greetings of spring from Peachtree City, Georgia, as well as an expression of gratitude from our Steering Committee for the support you and others have provided over the past year.

As a short update since Daoud’s letter was written, there was an attack on the grape vineyards on March 2 by a few local Palestinians from the family contesting ownership of part of the land. Daoud finally got in touch with the Abbas administration through a friend with influence at that level.  We are waiting to see what actions might be taken to help move along the legal process against these attackers through the Palestinian courts. We, of course, will keep you posted.

Even as you have read about the challenges that the Nassar family has endured recently, you must also know that Daoud continues to be hopeful, as we are, to what might be in sight during these times. 

Meanwhile, the British Ambassador visited the land and heard the family story.  At the end of the visit, he and the family shared in worship.  These kinds of inspiring moments are few during the Pandemic, but they do occur and are signs of hope.

On behalf of the FOTONNA Steering Committee – BiLL

  • Virtual Tours for Spring 2021:
  • Church of the Palms, AZ – May 7, 2021 – more details to be announced soon.

There are several other virtual tour options in planning with the opportunity to join in via Zoom.  When we have definite connections available, we will send out registration information for your use.  We hope to see some of your lovely faces on our computer screens soon!

  • Iowa Group Book/Summer Camp Plans:

When Daoud Nassar visited Des Moines during his Iowa tour in November 2019, the idea of creating a children’s book came up.  A small group of us, who now call ourselves the TON of Hope Book Team, began working with Daoud and FOTONNA to turn the idea into a real book – of, by, and for the children of Palestine (and, hopefully, a broader audience).  Ideas and process have evolved over time; we call it “organic growth.”

Designed as an empowerment project, the content of the book will emerge from TON’s Children’s Summer Camp activities.  The theme – “From the Ground and UP” – reflects TON’s own story – one of Faith, Hope, Love, and Sumud (steadfast perseverance).  The children are like seeds and can explore their potential and ways to cope.  At Daoud’s request, the Team has been brainstorming ideas for Camp activities related to the theme – from deep roots to sturdy branches that weather storms and bring beauty and sustenance to living creatures, from tiny seeds to the flowering of their full potential, from the need to be cared for to caring for others, from our individual piece of the mosaic to becoming part of the whole picture, be it an art piece, a garden, or a community – always with the land, which must be respected and cared for, as our source.

At this writing, it is uncertain whether the Camp with this theme will take place in 2021 or 2022, thanks in large part to the Coronavirus.  What is anticipated is that several volunteers from Des Moines will be helping with the Camp at TON – an immersive learning experience for us as well as for the children.  And then we all will work together to produce the book!  The Team is thankful to have the privilege of working with TON on this project.

–Virginia Wadsley for the TON of Hope Book Team

  • Great news!!  (Daoud and Jihan are proud parents – again!):

AQB Students Receive OSUN Grant For Creative Writing Project

Shadin Nassar and Ramez Hayek (in the middle)

at one of their Written Voices’ workshops

Al-Quds Bard College community is glad to congratulate our excellent students, Shadin Nassar and Ramez Hayek, on receiving a microgrant on their student-led-initiative project Written Voices.  On February 5, 2021,the Open Society University Network (OSUN) proudly announced the recipients of its 2020 round of microgrants for student-led initiatives in the areas of community engagement and human rights and the arts. Twenty-two awardees received grants totaling more than $17,000 for a diverse set of initiatives launching this spring and summer in Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Belarus, Germany, and the United Kingdom. For the first time, OSUN’s new Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College awarded eight grants of $1,000 each to students leading work, research, or engagement initiatives located at the intersection of human rights and the arts.  Recipients include Shadin Nassar and Ramez Hayekfor their proposal, Written Voices, a project that develops creative writing in Palestinian schools and institutions through workshops and classes.

The Written Voices project comes as a community-response to the urgent need for creative writing in Palestinian schools. Shadin and Ramez noticed that many promising student-writers are neglected and not given proper assistance to improve their skills, especially those who want to pursue art in their future careers.  With the significant impact following the implementation of this project, more people will accept the idea of having creative writing implemented in schools and educational institutions as part of the Palestinian educational system, which is the ultimate goal that this initiative works to achieve. A part of the project’s objectives is to change misconceptions about creative writing:  such initiatives include the publishing of a book on creative writing, conducting a writing contest in Palestine, and organizing the second annual Written Voices Summer Camp.

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It is always a pleasure to end this Newsletter on a high note, so… We will be in touch as things progress!!

Kay Plitt – Director of Finance/Communication