Current Newsletter

FOTONNA NEWSLETTER – September 11, 2020

Note from Bill Plitt:

Dear Friends,

As you will see in this letter from Daoud that conditions on the farm and surrounding area are desperate; we are not yet certain as to the reasons why this is happening. One thing we do know is that the U.S. policy towards the region, plus the repercussions of the pandemic, have increased tensions there on the already-existing, long-term negative effects of the Israeli Occupation.

There have been rumors that the recent attack on the land (see below) was by nearby settler groups.  While the existence of the settlements may not be the cause, they are certainly a contributing factor.

The purpose of this reach-out to you is to alert you to the present-day reality on the ground.  This is not yet a call to action.  We will certainly let you know if/when that changes.

We are grateful for your support!

On behalf of the FOTONNA Steering Committee,

Bill Plitt
Executive Director/Co-founder
Friends of Tent of Nations North America

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Update from Daoud:

September 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

It is a big comfort for us to feel that we are not alone in all what we are going through. Thanks to all our friends who are walking side by side with us in this difficult and critical time we are facing.

As you know, we are in the middle of the Land Re-registration process. The Registration Committee came to the farm the first time on June 30, 2020, to check the boundaries of the two plots of land that we own and to have the neighbors sign and give their witness that the land belongs to us.  This is an important step in the re-registration process.  The committee, on that day, could not find all the markers and numbers, and they had to stop the process.

We had to hire three land surveyors who came two days later; we had to walk the entire boundary of the farm in 100+ degree heat – up hill and down – over rocks and around rocks. We marked the border with black spray paint at every point that is shown on the land survey using a GPS system to ensure the accuracy of the marking. 

The committee came back to check the first plot on July 21, 2020.  All of the Palestinian neighbors that have land close to our farm were there. They signed and gave their witness; they were all very cooperative, and the process went very smoothly.

On July 28, 2020, the committee came again to check on the second plot. One of the major issues of contention centered round the villagers’ request to open small roads across our land to allow our neighbors to cross through to their land. We agreed to do this some time ago, but the issue centered round the demand that this be put in the re-registration papers; we were concerned that if we did this formally, we would need to start the process all over again.  The whole issue of objection from some neighbors on that day was focused on roads.  No one argued about our ownership of the land. Some days later, I got a visit from some friends from the village who came and brought three people with them.  Those three people were claiming that part of the land we are re-registering belongs to them.  By the way, those three people were there on July 28, 2020, when the committee came, but they didn’t claim any ownership of land in front of the committee.  I mentioned to them that we have all the necessary ownership documents, and they were welcome to bring their claim to the court; any issue can be solved there.

On August 28, a neighbor called to say that the same three Palestinian people from the village were bringing a tractor to begin working the land on our farm.  I immediately called the police and visited the regional Palestinian governor to launch a complaint.  Also, I appealed to the court to get an order to stop them; that order is in process, and I hope to get it soon.

On August 30, I went with Jihan to water the trees in the valley and found a “Stop Cultivation” order; later, I found two more in the new vineyard where new olive trees, grapes and fruit trees were planted a few years ago. The Settlers of Neve Daniel appealed to the Supreme Court to stop us from the re-registration process, claiming the land is a State Land and we are not allowed to re-register it as a private property.  (The court date is set for September 30, 2020.)

On September 3, Amal and Jihan were picking grapes in the new vineyard. They were confronted by 20 to 30 young people with sticks who had torn down the fence in the new vineyard and were threatening to do destruction to the vineyard cave. Jihan managed to call Tony Nassar in Bethlehem who called the police.

On September 4, intruders came onto the land during the night and wreaked havoc on the vineyard cave.  They tore out the heavily fortified door to the cave, broke windows, emptied cabinets and threw contents on the floor, plus other destructive acts.  On the outside of the cave, they destroyed the small solar panels and the batteries, and they stole the generator, both of which provided electricity for the cave.  They also destroyed the security camera and stole the recorded tape from that camera.  Tools left in the vineyard were also stolen.  The mess they left behind totaled almost $30,000 in damages.  The only good thing coming out of this was that no family members were present there that night.  We are still trying to figure out who is behind this attack, what is the motive and why it is being done now.

While all of this has been going on, we have been dealing with the whole farm work without hiring workers “because of Corona Virus” and without any help from international volunteers.  We have to stay overnight on the farm to keep showing our presence there day and night.  We have gone through with the almond harvest and the grape harvest and soon with the fig harvest.  Luckily, the grape harvest was very good this year, and, unluckily, we have no volunteers to help.  The major challenge is what to do with the harvest.  We won’t make wine this year, because we still have a lot from last year, and selling grapes on the local market is not worth doing.  We are working on making grape jam and a form of grape “licorice” from dried grapes.

Another challenge at the moment is with the solar power system.  The batteries are dying, and we need to replace them.  We used the diesel generator for a while, but it is too noisy, especially during the night.  I am working on that.

I want to give some good news to empower myself and all of our friends who need to hear something hopeful.  I am struggling, however, on where to get this hope from in the middle of the darkness we are facing.  I know that the candle is still burning in this dark tunnel, but I still can’t see it.  I need to focus and listen for direction to find it.  We know it is there, and you are carrying it for us.

My friends, our journey will continue.  Thank you for your commitment in walking and accompanying us on this long journey; thank you for all your prayers, love and support.

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.”

Blessings and Salaam, Daoud

September 10, 2020

P.S.  Some Good News – Many friends from nearby have been willing to stand by us on the farm.  We truly appreciate this show of support!

The Sun may set, but Hope Arises with the New Dawn!

New Items of Interest:

Tent of Nations Documentary

Good News about the in-process TON documentary titled From the Ground Up.  Jeremy Rodgers, Director, applied for and received one of fifteen awards from The Austin Film Society Grants.  This is a very prestigious award, and Jeremy felt affirmed in his vision, his gift as a film maker, and the subject of this narrative:  a Palestinian family’s struggle against injustice and the peaceful, lawful fight for their homeland.  We hope to see a finished product by the end of the year.  Stay posted!!

For those of you who would like to see more about the Austin Film Society and the kinds of films they support, here is the link to that site:

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/screens/2020-09-01/afs-announces-2020-feature-grant-recipients/

There is also a $10,000 Matching Grant being offered towards the completion of this film.  If you would like to donate to that grant, please…

 Go to:  https://allegrosolutions.org/donate/

 You will be presented with the online option to donate.  You can set up recurring payments or make a one-time contribution.  Please place the account code FromTheGroundUp.JLR into the field that states “Enter Account Designation Code.”  This will assign the funds directly to the correct account.

 If you do not wish to donate through the online tool, simply click on “Other Ways to Give.” You will be directed towards information on how to mail checks, submit contributions over the phone, or donate stocks.

 You will receive an email with your tax-deductible Donation Receipt from Allegro, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.

New Video

The Carter Center has released a new, very short video as mentioned in the last email we sent out.  It is worth mentioning again as it is a delightful message of hope from Tent of Nations. Video Here

New Cookbook

The Nassar family has a three-page spread in the new cookbook, Falastin, by Sami Tamimi.  If you overlook the error in naming Daoud’s wife as Amal (his sister) instead of Jihan, the story is well told, and the recipes and other Palestinians’ stories are beautifully told as well.  (They are working on making corrections before their next printing.)

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51jjY-WhpEL._SX362_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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Thank you to all who have supported this family through thick and thin, through hope and sometimes a feeling of hopelessness, through laughter and tears, and through joys and losses.

You have been there for them before; please continue to be there for them in the coming days when that candle seems to sometimes be buried deep in that tunnel – hard to see – difficult to believe in – praying for its flame to spark to life once again.  We all need to have that candle of hope held aloft, lighting our way through these sometimes despairing times. 

We do this together!!

With gratitude for all you do – FOTONNA Steering Committee