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June 2024 FOTONNA Newsletter

Update from Daoud Nassar

The Nassar family welcomes the season’s new visitors and volunteers to the family’s farm, Tent of Nations! We are grateful for the fellowship of visitors and the efforts of volunteers staying to help our farm flourish. During these difficult times, the presence of international visitors and volunteers provides immeasurable support as we continue to prevent confiscation of our family farm, located in Area C of the Occupied West Bank, Palestine.

We thank the representatives from the eight European Government missions for their visit on May 31, 2024, where they witnessed the extremely concerning developments happening on our land and received a briefing from our lawyer. We are grateful for all the action that they will take on our behalf so that we may complete the re-registration of all our land and farm our land in safety.

With all eyes focused on Gaza, more Palestinian land in the West Bank is being taken. We have not escaped these circumstances. Since March 2024, Israelis have started construction of two roads on our private property, with a third road that will encroach our land if construction continues. We have appealed to the Supreme Court, which had previously ruled that our land is not to be touched while we undergo its re-registration process. On April 21, 2024, the Supreme Court issued an order preventing the State from doing anything on our land until further orders. Yet, Israelis continue to enter and work on our land—as recently as June 9, 2024. In the meantime, on May 27, 2024, in what appears to be establishment of a new outpost, Israeli settlers placed an RV directly abutting our land.

In addition, we, like other Palestinian farmers, have been facing additional restrictions on accessing our land and regular intimidation and harassment by Israeli soldiers and settlers while trying to farm. We are grateful for the accompaniment of the many regular visitors and volunteers to our farm. Their presence significantly helps us to farm our land without fear.

We have been engaged in a 33-year long legal struggle to re-register our land (as required by Israeli law since their property is in Area C of the Occupied West Bank). The next court hearing regarding our registration is scheduled for July 2, 2024. This hearing (if not cancelled), will be the 11th in a series of hearings that began only in 2021, many years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled, in 2006, that we be allowed to re-register our land. The current situation and now the new road construction heighten the urgency for our family that these delays end and a just outcome secured, that is, completion of the re-registration process recognizing our ownership of all our land.

Tent of Nations welcomes many visitors each year and hopes they return often! Thank you for walking with us on our journey for justice. Please contact us for more information on how to get involved. And our journey continues with faith, love, and hope.”

Blessings and Salaam,

Daoud Nassar

Director, Tent of Nations

-People Building Bridges-

tentofnations.com, www.fotonna.org
Facebook: Tent of Nations/Nassar Farm


A Message from the FOTONNA Steering Committee

While the news in Israel-Palestine is focused understandably on Gaza, the experience of our Palestinian friends in the West Bank is exceedingly troubling as more land is being taken with impunity. As the pressure increases, our efforts have as well.

Most of those on the FOTONNA Steering Committee participated in the Churches for Middle East Peace Advocacy Summit in April, joining Daoud and his wife Jihan in meetings with our elected officials, speaking out for TON and those in the West Bank as well as for Gazans.  Daoud is taking every step he can with multiple international parties to peacefully resist the increased intimidation and harassment by Israeli soldiers and settlers and the repeated delays in the court hearing to re-register the land. Beth Moore continues to do her excellent work coordinating advocacy efforts on our end.

We are thankful to see international visitors and volunteers coming to the farm, including Joan Deming from the Steering Committee who led a team of 4 (which you can read about in this newsletter) and a member of our Advisory Council,David Benedict who was part of a team with five Union Seminary students from NY.  In addition, the prayers, words of encouragement, writing of letters to elected officials and ongoing support in a variety of ways from each of you all factor into the critical work being done to counter the rising pressure.

Together, we refuse to let the enormity of God’s vision for our world – and TON in particular – be diminished by the small, tribal visions that want to dominate.  The prophetic tradition unites us through an image of young people seeing visions of what can be and old people dreaming dreams of what one day will be – each placing their hope in a world that is still emerging as we press on toward it.  It is remarkable that the early followers of Jesus, though greatly outnumbered and facing overwhelming odds, still managed to turn things upside down and bring about a more just and compassionate society because they never gave up. They held firm. They maintained their hope.  People said “You’re naive. You’re idealistic. This is just dreaming. It will never happen.”  But they kept on going because their lives had a goal that was greater than this world could contain, and they committed themselves toward it.

We are committed to the same as we join Daoud and his family in their inspiring and faithful work of refusing to conform to this world, but striving for a better world. We join the Nassars and that great cloud of witnesses who had visions and dreamed dreams, not losing heart with the sobering setbacks and severe strains along the way.

I read this past week of an oncologist who specializes in some of the worst kinds of cancer. He is a world-class physician with a string of degrees and fellowships after his name.  Like all professionals, he has a card with his name on it, but in place of where you might expect a list of his degrees, he has three words in boldface type: “THERE IS HOPE.” I have a feeling it’s the card as well as his care that keeps his patients going.

It’s because we have each other – and because we hold the Nassars and one another in our hearts – that the message on this card keeps us going, working for a world that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, God assures us is coming. Thankful to be on this hard but holy journey with you.

Together in Hope,

Charlie Lewis

FOTONNA Steering Committee Chair


A Prayer for the Tent of Nations by Alex Awad

With Heart & HandMighty God, we come before you with praise and thanksgiving for the Nassar family and for their patience and endurance as they struggle to stop the injustice that is threatening their land and their lives. We also thank you for their commitment to nonviolent means of resistance and for refusing to call their oppressors “enemies.”

Merciful God, the Nassar family’s struggle with the settlers who want to grab their land has been going on for many years and they have experienced numerous painful attacks by the settlers during these years. Lord, we pray for an end to the attacks on the Nassars’ land. And although under the Israeli judicial system there is no expectation that the Israeli government would stand with a Palestinian family, we recognize that you are the higher judge of all, and you can change the hearts of those who are doing harm.

We pray for your continued protection of the Nassar family.

We pray that you will continue to give them wisdom as they deal with those who attack them.

We pray that you give courage to the Friends of Tent of Nations here in the US and around the world as they continue to stand in solidarity with this just cause.

Gracious Lord, since the situation at the Tent of Nations is a microcosm of the larger injustices against the whole Palestinian nation in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip, we pray for the end of all hostilities between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. We pray that you will hasten the day when Israelis and Palestinians will live in the land in total peace and harmony.

We call on you to hear our prayers because all authority, power, and glory belongs to you. In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we pray.

Amen

Rev. Alex Awad, is a retired United Methodist Missionary, who with his wife Brenda served for many years as Dean of Students and faculty members at Bethlehem Bible College. Alex is co-chair of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP).


Advocacy Update and Alert

In April, Daoud and his wife Jihan spent 10 days in Washington DC with FOTONNA Steering Committee members and other supporters, visiting 20 members of Congress and State Department officials. All who met with the Nassars were moved by their 33-year long legal fight to protect the Tent of Nations from confiscation and alarmed by the heightened tension they have faced since October 7.

Several elected officials and their legislative aides expressed a willingness to sign a joint letter to Secretary Blinken regarding the increasing violence directed at farmers by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank of which Tent of Nations is an example.  Rep. Raul Grijalva subsequently wrote a letter to the State Department, signed by several additional House members. The press release and letter are available at this link. We are grateful for the action of these representatives.

URGENT REQUEST FOR YOUR ACTION REGARDING July 2nd Re-registration Hearing of Nassar Farm

As Daoud shared in his update, the situation around and on the Nassar family farm has become dire. Israeli soldiers and settlers are constructing roads on and alongside the farm, access to the farm for family and visitors is restricted by additional roadblocks and checkpoints, a new outpost has been set up right next to the farm, and family members are subjected to harassment and intimidation from settlers on a daily basis.

The next court hearing regarding the re-registration of the land is scheduled for July 2, 2024. This hearing (if not cancelled), will be the 11th in a series of hearings that began only in 2021, many years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled, in 2006, that the family be allowed to re-register their land. The current situation heightens the urgency for the delays to end and a decision to be made that recognizes the private ownership of their land.

We are asking you to raise your voice to advocate for the Tent of Nations.

Use these links to obtain the contact information for your elected officials:

• House of Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
·

• Senate: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm?OrderBy%253Dstate%2526Sort%253DASC 

Click these links for the email template and phone script you can use to urge your senators and representative to contact Secretary of State Blinken with specific asks.

You may also want to schedule a zoom or in person appointment with your elected officials and/or their legislative aides. (The House is out of session the week of June 17 and July 1. The Senate is out of session the weeks of June 24 and July 1).

We are also providing information on the historical background of the legal case with details about events in and around the farm since October 7, and a list of asks. This Background document can be used for in person meetings, and/or left with the congressperson or staffer.

Thank you for using your influence as a constituent.

Please act quickly. If you need more information or have questions, write to the FOTONA Steering Committee at info@fotonna.org.

We are grateful for your support!

Beth Moore, FOTONNA Steering Committee Finance Co-Director


A Snapshot of a Volunteer Experience at Tent of Nations

From May 17-27 I visited Tent of Nations together with 3 American friends to volunteer on the farm. We came in response to the Nassar family’s appeal to help create a 24/7 international presence on the farm — both to help with farm tasks and to provide protection, simply by our presence, from settler and IDF intrusions. Here’s my take on this incredibly rewarding experience:

The situation of the farm and life in the West Bank more broadly have never been so fraught for local Palestinians. However, as an American of a certain age, I felt totally safe. The farm is kept as secure as the family can make it. (Note the keys in the photo!)

Within the farm grounds we experienced quiet and serenity—and a balance of hard work and time for rest and play. We also had “security guards” from a next-door settlement drive slowly by several times with flashing lights, stopping sometimes to ask about our presence. (“Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you from? How long are you staying?”) The settlers made it clear they believe the land is theirs because God gave it to them, and they intend to keep trying to take it. During our stay, those settlers installed an RV next to the farm on a new illegal road. They appear to be preparing a new outpost there but did not interfere with volunteers at all. We tried to answer and interact as little as possible. We were all grateful to be there and hopeful that our presence gave some protection for the farm.

Our volunteer tasks included: cutting tall weeds, aerating soil around fruit trees, building and cementing a circular seating area of rocks to surround a new “justice pole,” cutting and drying herbs for eventual sale, staking trees and grape vines, watering trees, prepping and painting metal window grills. Since we were a small community needing daily care, tasks also included preparing breakfasts and suppers, cleaning tables and doing dishes, cleaning tents and compost toilets, and doing laundry. Volunteers who come prepared to take on ANY needed task are true volunteer gold!

We had up to 15 volunteers from 5 countries, during our stay. However, as I left, only 2 volunteers remained awaiting the next arrivals. Almost daily visits by tour groups added to the interesting mix of folks sharing lunches. A continuous rotation of new international volunteers is needed. If you are considering volunteering this summer or fall at Tent of Nations, know that you are wanted and will be welcomed with gratitude and grace!

To learn more, please contact Daoud Nassar through the volunteer page of Tent of Nations’ website: https://tentofnations.com/volunteer/. This is an intense time to be in Palestine; thus it means all the more for our hosts and for us. Let me emphasize; we felt very safe! Our hosts are safer with us there. And we had experiences that will shape the rest of our lives.

Rev. Joan Deming

FOTONNA Steering Committee Co-Communications Director


Thanks for your support – Gifts and Prayers

In the last year, FOTONNA has established a Fiscal Sponsor relationship withTree of Life Educational Fund (TOLEF). This means that if you wish to give a tax-deductible gift, you may make your gift ($250 or more) to TOLEF to be allocated to FOTONNA.

You can also give directly to FOTONNA online or by check, though direct gifts are not tax deductible.

For directions about how to give, either directly to FOTONNA OR through our Fiscal Sponsor, visit the FOTONNA website and choose the “Take Action” tab in the menu at the top, and then select “make a contribution”. On this page you will see the two options for giving. The first one shown is for making the gift to FOTONNA directly, the second one provides directions for making a tax-deductible contribution of $250 or more through TOLEF for FOTONNA.

Thank you for your generous support, spiritually and financially, for the Nassar family. If you wish to make a financial gift, and have any questions about how to do so, please feel free to contact: Beth Moore, FOTONNA’s Finance Co-Director, ebmoore1@live.com.

Mike Phillips

FOTONNA Finance Co-Director


We are Grateful to be on the FOTONNA road with you!

We are grieving with you in this harrowing season of death and suffering in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. Thank you for all the ways that you are leaning into the wind, walking with the Nassars on their “journey for justice with faith, love, and hope in action.”

Heidi Saikaly and Joan Deming
FOTONNA Steering Committee Communications Team