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FOTONNA NEWSLETTER – December 2021

Update from Daoud Nassar

Dear Friends of Tent of Nations, 
 
Greetings from Bethlehem. I hope this message finds you well and in good health. It is a difficult time for all of us since the pandemic is hitting many countries with a new wave of the virus.
 
At the beginning of September, the Registration Committee of the Israeli Military Authority informed our attorney that a hearing was scheduled on the 13th of December 2021 to discuss next steps to re-register the Tent of Nations land. Completion of the land re-registration constitutes Israeli authorities’ recognition that the Nassar farm is privately owned land in Area C of the West Bank. We hope that this meeting will not be postponed.
 
In October, a demolition order was discovered on a fence at the entrance of a cave that is used to host volunteers, ordering the cave’s destruction. A hearing was held on the 17th of November at the Israeli Military court in Beit El. Thank God, our attorney succeeded in obtaining a temporary freeze of this demolition order.
 
We are now preparing with our lawyer for the hearing on the 13th of December. We are grateful for the strong partnership of our international friends in the United States and Europe. Your efforts are making a difference. We are very appreciative of your solidarity and support on our long journey for justice and ask that you continue advocating for TON, as we approach the 13th of December. 
 
We ask that our European friends continue to pressure those in Embassies and Representative Missions to ensure that the re-registration process will proceed smoothly and end in our favor.
 
We ask that our U.S. friends continue calling and emailing your elected officials, following our
  • Note: for a reminder of suggested actions and phone/email scripts you could use, please click here. If you are a US-based supporter and have been in touch with Congressional representatives, please DO LET US KNOW how those contacts went!
  • Email your stories to info@fotonna.org. Please include your city, state, and congressional district in your response so we can track legislative responses more effectively. 
In the last 3 months, the Tent of Nations hosted visiting groups and delegations. In September we hosted a small group of German teachers, and a group of local young people who came to volunteer for a day. We continued to raise awareness of the Tent of Nations through online meetings with churches and friends in the United States and Europe.
 
In October, we hosted a political delegation from the US Embassy, a small delegation of church leaders from Jerusalem, and a delegation from a peace movement in Austria. During the olive harvest, we hosted a local youth group from Bethlehem, a scout group from East Jerusalem, a group of international volunteers who are staying in Jerusalem and the German consulate team from Ramallah who helped with picking olives.
 
Daoud tree-planting

Daoud tree-planting

In November, a delegation from France and from the United States came to visit the Tent of Nations. We also had two groups of volunteers who helped for a day.
 
We are thankful to all who came and visited the Tent of Nations in the year 2021. We hope to welcome more visitors in 2022.
 
The year 2021 was difficult for many people around the world including us, but we have many things to thank God for. We hope the year 2022 will bring more love and justice to our world.
 
Our journey for justice is full of obstacles, but we are determined to continue without giving up. Thank you for accompanying us on this long journey and for all your support and solidarity.
 
Our journey continues with faith, love, and hope in action.
 
Blessings and Salaam,
Daoud Nassar
 
Director, Tent of Nations
— People Building Bridges —

A Message from the FOTONNA Steering Committee Chair

PLANTING TREES IS LOVING THE EARTH
 
The chaos and uncertainty of our world has continued to be felt at the Tent of Nations this year. From Daoud’s updates, you know about the destruction of trees and property. But, you have also read and heard about the ways in which the family has continued to pour their hearts into caring for this 100 acre family farm on a hilltop outside of Bethlehem. Keeping the earth tilled, the cisterns filled, and new trees and grape vines planted is crucial to keeping the land from being confiscated.
 
Your prayers, strong advocacy for the re-registration of the land, sharing “the story,” and financial support are expressions of your solidarity with the Nassar family in this difficult time, and have allowed the work of Tent of Nations to continue.
 
In 2021:
  • The land has begun to be cleared from the ravages of the fire which destroyed over 1000 trees and severely stressed many others. Planting of new trees and grape vines has begun.
  • Development of an irrigation system is underway to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
  • The kitchen has been remodeled in order to better serve the larger numbers of visitor groups projected to arrive soon.
  • The legal case for the re-registration of the land has been intensified.
The hopes and plans for 2022 are many, and include:
  • A positive outcome to the re-registration of the land after 30 years of legal battle.
  • The continued planting of trees and irrigation system development.
  • The repair of facilities to house returning international volunteers and visitors
  • The return of children’s and harvest camps after 2 years of absence 
Gifts from friends like you will make the Tent of Nations’ work possible in the coming year. We live in gratitude for your generosity of not only this year, but the many preceding it, and we anticipate the blessings of a new year to come. Click these links to donate securely online or for information about mailing a check.
 
May this time of “Advent waiting” be filled with riches for you, as we long for the birth of a world in which Love is all.
 
Together in solidarity with you and the Nassars,
Charlie Lewis, Steering Committee Chair
 
Beth Moore, Tour Planning and Finance Co-Director

SHARING “THE STORY” FROM A DISTANCE

Beth Moore, FOTONNA Steering Committee Member,
Tour Planning and Finance Co-Director
 
Looking back over 2021, it amazes me to realize that with the many challenges faced by the Nassar family, they have continued to share the story of Tent of Nations both here in the US and in several other places as well – all virtually of course. When I sat down to count them,  I was surprised to see that we’d participated in eleven different events with a variety of groups including local churches, and webinars hosted by partner organizations, in addition to being featured presenters at two events drawing from the US and beyond.
 
The year 2022 is beginning to be revealed, and we welcome your invitations to be part of what you are planning for this new year. Here’s what we know so far:
  • January 15th, Daoud has been invited by the Middle East Peace Now(MPEN) organization based in Minneapolis to be featured in their monthly program. Visit their website to obtain more information and to register. https://mepn.org/
  • March 19th, Daoud will be part of a Lenten series hosted by the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC’s Palestine-Israel Network. Details are not yet available, but the Conference’s website is here: https://cpcucc.org
Be in touch with me, at ebmoore1@live.com if you’d like to include the Tent of Nations in your virtual programming for the new year. We are always grateful to continue the journey together with you.

Bethlehem, Oh Little Town
 
As the patriarch proceeds down the Star Street route* 
That is reported to be the path that the Magi took

Star Street, Bethlehem

So long ago.
The honk of horns from the cars that are 
Cascading on their ascent to the famed square 
From David’s City afar.
While the cacophonous drums
And bagpipes proceed before them 
In some declaration when
Out of the corner of my eyes I saw 
An older man with young boy in tow, 
Whom he appeared to be dragging unmercifully so – 
It got my attention –
Only to soon see that his charge was sightless, 
As he pulled him along, quite boldly it seemed 
In hopes that some holy one would cure him of disease.
Amidst all the clamor in both haste and speed
Our healing God goes unseen in the space between.
 
The words above capture some of the feeling of a December week in Bethlehem when I lived with the Daoud Nassar family. Their family’s historic home still exists on Star Street* where legend has it that the Magi traveled on their way from Jerusalem to the baby’s manger cradle.
 

Scouts’ Advent Parade

But, this day, a two-hour-long parade of scout troop bands from neighboring villages and towns marched and played to crowds lining the walls of the Old City street. A fleet of cars escorted the pious Roman Catholic Cardinal of the region seated in the back of a Mercedes, passing us on the way to the waiting crowd in Manger Square. I say “capture the feeling” because what I experienced that holiday were not the tinsel and wrapped packages of my own experiences at such time at home, but the feeling of family and the expectant arrival of the Holy One there in that little town.
 
The incident that stands out in my mind so vividly still, and reflected in the poem above, is the image of an older man, perhaps the father of a young boy being compassionately brought close to the priest in hopes of receiving his healing blessing. At first, I was alarmed by the counter-flow up the street of the two people going against the grain of the parade coming down, and the almost desperate, but later, it seemed, loving way the elder presented his son to the holy man. The story in Luke of the faithfulness of friends lowering their sick companion through the roof to Jesus below was what I really saw at that moment. Later, Daoud, who had seen it, too, confirmed that the man and boy were his neighbors, and, indeed, what I saw was accurate.
 
So family, love and hospitality is what I felt that week in Bethlehem. After the parade that afternoon, and I had had yet another one of those many savory meals, we attended the Christmas Eve candle-light service together at the English-speaking Lutheran Church, a short walk away uphill. The church was full when we arrived, and many had come far to celebrate the birth of Jesus that night. Many, like myself, from other countries, and many who were serving in some volunteer capacity in the region, gathered together in the wooden pews, surrounded overhead by the majestic arched walls above. At one point during the prayers of intercession, one could hear nine languages reading antiphonally the nine prayer passages coupled by a collective phrase of gratitude in Arabic. There was a sense, on that silent night, of the universality of the faith community as we lit our candles together.
 
The next morning, on Christmas Day, we went as a family to the same church to the Arabic service where the Nassar family children dominated the music program with their playing of tubas, hand bells, trumpet and voice – such talent! Receiving communion among the Arab members of the church was very special and an even more meaningful service than the evening before. Following worship, I walked to the home of an old friend who works as a diplomat in the Palestinian government. I shared yet another scrumptious meal with her and her mother; we also shared the memories of her father, who had died during the year. He had always welcomed me and my friend, Bill, so warmly as “brothers” each time we came to his home.
 

Nassar Family Members

During the remainder of Christmas Day, I shared time with Daoud’s family as a steady flow of relatives came to the home to express their love. It is custom that family members visit the members of their family who have married outside their own circle to express solidarity.
 
The next day, Daoud and I went with his brother, Daher, to the farm to plant trees that were a gift from 12 members of the Endo clan in Virginia. It was a wonderful time for us of working and relishing the events of the week.
 
When alone in the chapel cave with my harp, I couldn’t help but remember that image of the father and son in their encounter with the holy one on Star Street. I wonder..?
“Amidst all the clamor in both haste and speed
Our healing God goes unseen in the space between.”
 
Bill Plitt
FOTONNA Steering Committee Senior Consultant and Historian

THANK YOU!

Your generous prayers, presence, and gifts mean so much to everyone involved with Tent of Nations. Gifts to FOTONNA are not tax deductible under US tax law, but are all used to support the crucial work of Tent of Nations. Click here for donation information.
 
A REQUEST: We are trying to build a geographic map of supporters of the Tent of Nations. If you are willing, please email us to share your snail-mail address, or at least to tell us the city and state where you live. Email Info@fotonna.org. In turn, we will be able to inform you when Tent of Nations speakers come to your area.

Grateful to be on this FOTONNA road with you!

Years ago, during a meeting about Israel Palestine, the tenor of the discussion turned dark and fatalistic, with one voice blurting out that “those people have never and will never learn to get along.” My spirits were deflated by the utterance of that cruel myth. I finally sputtered, “As followers of Christ, we are people of hope, called to step out in faith and work for change.” Silence… In response, John Collier shared his recollection about working for the U.S. State Department on South African Affairs in the late 1980s. “During those years, if someone had asked me, ‘Will apartheid ever fall,’ I would have said (waving his hand at the air), ‘Well, yes, but it will take many, many, MANY years.’ But… it DID fall, and that is my hope for Israel Palestine. The occupation will end. So, never give up hope.”
 
These days, the news from I/P is hard to bear for us in North America and harder to endure for the Palestinians of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But, let us follow the Nassars’ lead, as they continue their journey forward with faith, love, and hope in action.
 
Thank you for all the ways you are walking on the FOTONNA road with the Nassars!

Heidi Saikaly

FOTONNA Steering Committee Communications Co-Director