As always, the main purposes of this newsletter update are to:
1) let you know about Daoud’s April/May tour and his upcoming educational/ fundraising tour;
2) include direct reports from Jihan and Daoud on the Summer 2009 activities*; and
3) request your financial support for the Tent of Nations projects. Send donations to the usual address: FOTONNA – c/o Kay Plitt – 5621 N. 9th Road – Arlington, VA 22205 – checks made out to: FOTONNA.
*In Daoud’s report, he asks for financial help to cover upcoming expenses for legal fees in his ongoing court battles to prove ownership of his land. The courts continue to throw up road blocks (literally as well as figuratively) to the family’s efforts, but these fees cannot be paid for out of FOTONNA funds. If you wish to send financial help directly for these expenses, make the checks out to Daoud Nassar and mail to: Daoud Nassar – c/o Kay Plitt – 5621 N. 9th Road – Arlington, VA 22205. We will get the checks to Daoud directly. Thanks!!
Spring 2009 Tour:
Daoud, Mark Braverman and Bill Plitt (The Three Musketeers) spent a very successful few days in the Chicago area in late April. Many thanks go to Miryam Raschid and her vast cadre of friends who hosted these guys for special events, radio interviews, etc. It was great! The second half of the tour took place in the DC/VA/MD/PA area, and it included several visits to the Hill to meet with Senators and Representatives to tell the Tent of Nations‘ story.
Upcoming Tour – Fall 2009:
Kay Plitt will be joining Daoud in Iowa from November 2-7, 2009 for a series of presentations, including Drake University, the University of Iowa, and Scattergood Friends School. From November 7-20, there will be events at the Tree of Life Conference in CT and other venues in Cape Cod, Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford, DC, Arlington and possibly Williamsburg. If you want more details, please contact Kay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Braverman has published his new book – Fatal Embrace –• Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land.You can go online and google Mark Braverman – Fatal Embrace. The cost is $16.95. In Fatal Embrace, Braverman provocatively argues that Jewish exclusivism is being enacted in the colonial, expansionist nature of the State of Israel. He also contends that the attempts by Christians to atone for anti-Semitism have resulted in the suppression of honest interfaith dialogue on the issue, blocking progress toward a just peace. This book is a call to action directed at Christians and other Americans.
Book of Poetry:
Fifteen of the women who attend Jihan’s Bent al-Reef Women’s Education Programs wrote some moving and beautiful poetry through a Creative Writing Class offered in March 2009. We are working on the finishing touches, and within a month or so a booklet of these poems (translated from Arabic into eight other languages and which includes pictures taken on the land) will be available for a donation of $50 or more. If you would like to have one of these unique booklets sent to you, include this information on your donation form.
Please take time to read the following reports. Jihan has great news about the Women’s Education Center in Nahalin, and Daoud’s news is both wonderful and distressing. Keep the Tent of Nations and the Nassar family endeavors in your prayers!! Peace with Justice – shouldn’t be so difficult to accomplish!!
Tent of Nations
People Building Bridges
Greetings from a hot and sunny Bethlehem. We are writing to you now from our farm heavy with grapes, some exciting new developments, and the multi-lingual chatter of our many summer volunteers. Here is a short update on our situation, what has been going on over the last few months and what our plans are for the future.
Access continues to be difficult as we noted in the winter and spring reports; we can only drive to the land via a long route through the surrounding villages. However, more land is gradually being taken, roads built and settlements expanding. According to the Israelis, there are plans to annex the whole of what is called the Gush Ezion block to Israel. We are situated in the centre of this block and for this reason there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. We are aware that the possibility of being eventually cut-off from Bethlehem and the surrounding villages is a very real threat, since every day we see new facts on the ground. If this situation does occur, we will not let it damage or weaken our will to remain on our land. This is why we are now working hard to make sure that a Tent of Nations ‘island’ would have the means to exist self-sustainably.
We are still in the course of re-registering the land again as demanded by Israel; however, the process is being made very difficult for us and the prediction of our lawyer is that it is likely to take several more years. At the same time this process is going to increase our financial burden. We need to pay the third payment for the re-registration fee, which is $3500.
We would like to ask you to stay involved and watch out for any time in which we may need international support to voice your solidarity. Any financial contribution for legal fees is needed and will be appreciated. The financial burden is a way to put more pressure on us in order to give up but with your solidarity and support we are staying on our land. (Remember: Support for this effort must be made directly to Daoud Nassar; these legal fee expenses cannot be paid for through FOTONNA).
At the moment, we are busy watering and taking care of the thousands of olive and other trees planted last and this year. Our aim is to cultivate more fields and plant them with trees. We welcome people to sponsor trees, to be planted to protect the environment and keep the land green.
We are also starting up a gift shop on the farm where we will invite visitors to buy our produce, such as grape syrup, jams, almonds, sage, as well as postcards, books and bags. This is in its early stages but we hope within the coming months it will be successful and our range of products will grow. We would like to ask you to support our small vineyard shop in buying the vineyard products. This is a help to make the Tent of Nations more self sustainable.
As mentioned above, we must look ahead and prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Our vision is to become as self-sufficient as possible, especially regarding energy and water. We have recently made some important new steps to make this vision a reality.
In the past month, a couple of volunteers from the ‘Green Helmets’ organisation in Germany came to install a set of solar panels. This is a huge development for us as not only can we have the benefit of clean electricity throughout both the day and the night, we are now truly a ‘light on the mountain’ in showing that we can always find ways to overcome the problems that face us. This solar power is producing 4.5 KW of electricity which is enough for our daily use.
Over the past couple of months, a volunteer from Israel has been coming to build a compost toilet. We are proud to have this system installed at the Tent of Nations, since it is the first in Palestine with such highly developed technology. Special thanks to Mr. Rupert Neudeck, from the Green Helmet in Germany for sponsoring this project and to the engineers Mr. Thomas Just and Mr. Fabian Jochem who came from Germany and invested their time and work in installing this system. This is also a fantastic new development as it benefits us in every way. It is both water-free and gives us good compost for the farm. One is now ready and being used while two others are soon to be finished.
It is vital now that we invest in building new cisterns for collecting rainwater to increase our water independence.
Two new cisterns have recently been dug and there are plans for more.
Our hope for the near future is to buy a digger and we are still looking for a good used one. Also, we now have developed more space for long-term volunteers to stay.
BENT AL-REEF WOMEN’S PROJECT
During the months of April and May we offered two computer and English courses. Thirty women participated in these classes. On the 29th of May, we had the graduation ceremony for all women who participated in these courses from January to May 2009.
For two weeks in July we held our seventh summer camp here under the title “Bringing Nature to Life, Leaning Hope and Planting Peace”. About 40 children came from towns and refugee camps around the Bethlehem area and enjoyed a range of workshops and games led by a group of both international and Palestinian volunteers.
Guest Groups and Volunteers
The Tent of Nations is always happy to welcome the many groups and visitors who are constantly coming and going and discovering our land and our country. We are also extremely grateful to all of our volunteers, without whose help the things that we achieve here at Tent of Nations would not be possible.
In recent months, we have hosted visitors spanning the globe with 694 from Germany, 258 from Palestine, 160 from Israel, 136 from America, 64 from England, 37 from Austria, 24 from Holland, 23 from Switzerland, 20 from Norway, 20 from France, 12 from Brazil, 11 from Sweden, 6 from Canada, 3 from Australia, 3 from Japan, 3 from Scotland, 1 from Italy, 1 from Belgium and 1 from Finland. In total, we have had 1477 visitors between the months of April and July. We hope that they all leave with a refreshed vision that peace is possible and feeling inspired to spread the message of Tent of Nations and of what is happening here back in their own countries. The camp was a huge success and the culminating festival on the final day really captured the vision of the camp – to let the children feel connected to their land, motivated and proud of what they can achieve.
In July, a group of German young people visited us for an international exchange of ideas on the role of youth in shaping their societies. Discussion groups were held with a set of our international volunteers and productive conversations were had about bringing the bigger picture down to a local and manageable level, the benefits of taking action as a young person and how to work step by step to achieve our goals.
Upcoming Events & Projects
We are soon to begin the almond harvesting program which will be followed by the grape, fig and, later, the olive harvest. We are expecting more volunteers to participate in our different work camps.
Our vision is to develop a vocational training centre which will include different educational and practical courses for young people and children. We are moving step by step to realize this vision. The solar power system will be used to teach children and young people about alternative energy and to open for them more future perspectives. We hope to start with a sustainable farming school that will encourage farmers to stay connected to their land and develop agriculture.
We are planning to send Fadi Daher to Germany to the Volkswagen Company for 3 years of study as a car mechanic. He will start his studies in the beginning of October. Our country is in need of highly qualified people and we are investing in Fadi in order to go to study and then come back to Palestine and continue to educate others. The new generation is the foundation of the future; we need to invest in them since they are the only asset we have. We thank Wolfgang Liebe for his efforts to make it possible for Fadi to do his studies in Germany. We will do whatever we can to realize the vision of Tent of Nations within our capacities, but whatever we can’t achieve we try to invest in the new generation in order to go on and continue to work in making our dreams become true and realize our vision.
Finally, we would like to thank you for your continuing support and hope that you are enjoying an enriching and peaceful summer and fall. If you would like to have more information on anything please have a look at the website: www.tentofnations.org or send us an email at email@example.com
One of the recent visitors to the farm, Mike Hall, sent a copy of one of his original poems that he has given me permission to include for you to share with others:
i refuse to be your enemy
your bullets can kill my body
but your army cannot conquer my rights
i am Palestinian
i refuse to be your enemy
your terrorism won't break me
your Jim Crow laws won't cow me
we've been here since the beginning
and we will out last you all
your barb-wire may keep you out and me segregated inside
but it imprisons you as well
you can erect apartheid walls between us
but we will build a bridge above and below
you can destroy my trees with your chainsaws and tractors
but i have many more seeds and i can plant with my hands
you may ravage my land
but i will tend and persevere
i wash off your ethnic cleansing and cruelty
with the grace of a G_D who made you and i as brothers
i open my heart and hands to you
even when you point your gun at me
you jail my body to torture without charge, trial or adalah
but my heart, mind and soul couldn't be more free
you try to hide your crimes from the eyes of the world
but silence is a scream and one day all will be seen and heard
still, i refuse to be your enemy
because we are kin and we have the same father
i will not fight you with raised fist
your hate can never defeat me
you kicked me out of my house
you can move in, i cannot stop you
but it will never be your home
i have the key and i will always have the right to return
yet, i refuse to be your enemy
this land is yours and mine to share given by the maker of us both
i demand to be your friend
and in time, one day, we will share bread again