Greetings from the Tent of Nations.
I would like to share with you the latest news from the Tent of Nations, the situation on the ground, and the challenges we are facing.
Around the Tent of Nations, more facts are being created on the ground. There is ongoing confiscation of land with the expansion of neighboring Israeli settlements and a religious school. A new illegal outpost has been established northeast of the Tent of Nations. Meanwhile, construction work is widening and extending the reach of Route 60 from Jerusalem south to Israeli settlements. A new road will soon be the only route between Palestinian villages west of Bethlehem with the city. When the wall is completed southwest of Bethlehem, the Palestinian villages and the Tent of Nations will be disconnected from Bethlehem. The six mile drive from the Tent of Nations farm to Bethlehem will increase from 30 minutes to hours depending on how much time people have to wait at the checkpoint.
A major concern for us is that the legal process to re-register the Tent of Nations land has been repeatedly delayed by the Israelis. The next hearing is scheduled for the 6th of September. Within the next two weeks, we will start preparing for the hearing. We will keep you posted about new developments and alert you to ways that you can advocate for the Tent of Nations with your elected officials. The court cases that we must deal with are costing us a lot of energy, time, and resources. Our path is long and difficult, but we should continue to believe that one day justice will prevail.
Late in May, the Israeli military destroyed newly planted olive trees of our Palestinian neighbor whose land is contiguous with the east border of the Tent of Nations farm, claiming that these trees were planted on what they call “State Land.” We are concerned that settlers will start a new outpost there. This would further isolate our farm.
It is becoming more and more urgent to increase the presence of international groups of visitors and volunteers at the Tent of Nations. We feel that this is the only remaining protection. In June and July, we hosted 3 students from Notre Dame University, for 2 months of volunteering at the Tent of Nations. Special thanks to them for their commitment and help. We are very much looking forward to more cooperation with universities allowing more international students to have this experience at the Tent of Nations. In the last 3 months we hosted international groups who visited the farm to learn more about our situation and the work we are doing. Also, more and more international volunteers are coming and spending some time helping at the farm. It is encouraging to see the increased number of visitor groups and volunteers coming back after COVID-19. Thanks for all this support and solidarity.
We are still trying to recover from all the attacks and destruction that we have experienced on the farm over the last 3 years. It was very challenging to stand up again, and to continue to keep our hope alive. In the last few weeks, we have been installing water and wastewater pipes, as well as electrical pipes and cables. It is a lot of manual work and the materials are expensive, but we are making progress in small steps. With the support of many people, we managed to plant new grapes, fruit, and olive trees. Our water supply is a major concern. There was little rainfall to collect this past winter. From May until October, we have watered the newly planted trees 2-3 times a week to keep some humidity in the ground and to enable these plants to survive the hot summer months. In some fields, we installed irrigation systems to the trees using water pumps. We might run out of water soon and may need to buy water in big tanks. Our greenhouse was destroyed in March by heavy winds. We will need to fix it before the November planting season.
In June we hosted international politicians, 6 European Parliament members, and delegations from the Carter Center and The Elders*. It is great to see the rising support for the Tent of Nations.
Also in June, we hosted two Palestinian women’s groups for daylong workshops at the Tent of Nations. Jihan arranged a program that included discussion sessions, making natural soap, socializing, and having lunch together. This is something we will continue to do regularly at the Tent of Nations in the coming months. Thanks to all who support the women’s activities.
The highlight of 2023 was resumption of our annual children’s summer camp in July–our first since the pandemic. On Friday the 14th of July 2023, we finished our annual children’s summer camp with a big celebration with the children’s families and friends. The summer camp provides a unique experience for Palestinian children, growing up in challenging conditions. Through theatre, creative writing, and environmental education, the summer camp aims to cultivate children’s creativity and passion for sustainable development. The camp offers a supportive and nurturing environment where children can explore their interests and talents, talk about their dreams and hopes, and develop the skills necessary to create a better future.
Additionally, summer camp provides children with the opportunity to engage with international volunteers from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Through these interactions, children learn about different cultures, languages, and perspectives, while also developing important social skills. The camp also offers children the chance to learn songs in multiple languages, expanding their understanding and appreciation of the world around them. The children’s summer camp is a transformative experience that empowers Palestinian children to embrace their potential and work toward a brighter tomorrow.
On the 5th of August, we will begin the almond harvest with international volunteers, who will also prune the almond trees, cut dry branches, and soften the ground around them, in preparation for the rainy season. On the 4th of September we will start with the grape and fig harvest camp and on the 20th of October with the olive harvest. Thanks to all volunteers, short and long term, for their help and support. Their presence on the farm is making a big difference.
In the coming months, the Tent of Nations will become more and more isolated and it might be totally disconnected from Bethlehem when the wall is finished. New technologies are needed to improve the farm’s sustainability and self-sufficiency like renewable energy projects, solar and wind, rainwater purification system for drinking, solar cooker, and solar fruit dryer. Creative ideas and approaches are very much appreciated.
Thank you for walking with us on this long journey of faith, love, and hope.
Blessings and Salaam,
*The Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, is an independent group of global leaders working for peace, justice, human rights, and a sustainable planet. Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-moon visited the Tent of Nations in June, 2023. Photo: Saleem Anfous
While our FOTONNA Steering Committee’s fearless leader, Charlie Lewis, is on Sabbatical, I offered to write “his” newsletter column. As a Steering Committee member, I often feel indebted to Friends of Tent of Nations for giving me an opportunity to make a difference for Palestinian friends and causes about whom I deeply care.
It’s my belief that most of us reading this newsletter share that sense of gratitude to the Tent of Nations and the Nassar Family for continuing to lift our spirits and vision to a more hopeful plane — despite daunting challenges. Here are some of the specific things I’m grateful for:
Individual giving so far this year is lagging a bit behind previous years. I know that many of us who have been inspired by the Tent of Nations witness are actually grateful that our gifts through FOTONNA can make a difference. If you already give, Thank you! If you are able to give again or more, these are the best ways:
With deep gratitude,
Joan Deming, Steering Committee Member
As COVID-19 related international travel restrictions began to lift, Daoud worked with FOTONNA to plan an April 20-27, 2023 tour of Washington, DC. He had a full schedule of in-depth conversations with officials of the State Department and 18 congressional offices. Many thanks to our FOTONNA supporters, Advisory Council (AC), and Steering Committee (SC) members; your behind-the-scenes efforts through the years built a network of communication with officials of the State Department, and legislative aides of senators and representatives. It was a joy for Daoud to be accompanied to these meetings by AC and SC members. Many of the legislative aides indicated that they would contact the State Department about the urgency of the Nassars’ re-registration process. Special thanks and recognition to Beth Moore for guiding and coordinating the FOTONNA team with development of Daoud’s itinerary.
While in DC, Daoud spoke at conferences and enjoyed fellowship with his friends of the:
Daoud was greatly encouraged by these opportunities to tell the Tent of Nations story and see that those who received it were willing to use their influence to advocate for a just resolution. The next re-registration hearing is scheduled for September 6. An update about this legal process will be sent to you.
Once again, thank you for walking with the Nassars on their journey for justice and peace with faith, love, and hope.
Nadia Itraish McGeogh,
FOTONNA Steering Committee Outreach/Advisory Council Liaison
(Note: Daoud adds a special thank you to Nadia and Paul McGeough for “hosting me in their home and taking good care of me!”)
For several years I have tried to capture the essence of what makes the Tent of Nations Project what it is, a positive entity that nearly always presses forward, regardless of the constraints that the Israeli government places on the Nassar family’s efforts to claim its rightful place on the land.
On the April 2023 DC tour, Daoud was scheduled for more congressional visits, and group presentations than in the last decade of travel, collectively. I was deeply moved each day by the favorable reactions of congressional and State Department staff, and by the abiding love for the Nassar family’s story at the large venues sponsored by various church groups. This was the heart of the tour for me throughout each day of the tour.
At Trinity Presbyterian Church folks filled the Knox Room to capacity to hear Daoud’s message of perseverance and hope. In my introduction of Daoud to the audience, I felt called to offer a verse of the “In the Midst” poem that I’d written in 2007 after my first in-depth exposure to the realities of the Occupation. I believe that it captures the elusive spirit of the Tent of Nations land and its mission.
“Find, within the prison of the land itself,
The settlers surrounding what remains:
A vineyard, a farm, a spirit beyond belief
That challenges their presence without relief,
From energy spurred by countless souls
Who weep beside them – the living stones.”
FOTONNA Steering Committee Senior Consultant/Historian
Your prayers, presence, and gifts mean so much to everyone involved with TON! Thank you! Gifts to FOTONNA are not tax deductible under U.S. tax law, but are all used to support the crucial work of TON. Your financial gifts will be used to:
The FOTONNA Steering Committee is grateful for your generosity!
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.”
FOTONNA Steering Committee Communications Team