Dear Friends of Tent of Nations:
I hope my message finds you in good spirits.
I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Daher and I are recovering physically. We never expected to be attacked by Palestinians and this continues to be a big emotional burden on us. Since the physical attack in January, we have been receiving emails, phone calls, and letters of support from international and local friends condemning the attack and expressing support and solidarity with us. Your encouragement has been a real gift and blessing to us. We will keep moving forward and we will not give up.
A press conference was held at the Tent of Nations farm on February 19, 2022 regarding the recent physical attack. Palestinian Authority officials, heads of security forces, mayors of the Bethlehem region, local and international clergy and bishops, diplomats from different European Missions, some international friends, and local media were present at this press conference. They condemned the brutal attack and made it clear that the perpetrators must be arrested and brought to justice. It has been a month since the attack. To date, none of the attackers have been arrested.
This February, we had a small, but significant victory – the Israeli Supreme Court issued a ruling that dismissed the lawsuit of settlers who were pressuring the Military Government and its Civil Administration to speed up the eviction process. The court stated that our family had presented proper title documents to the land and were following the appropriate legal reregistration process to establish the land as our private property. One step forward. However, in this same month, we discovered two demolition orders for two agricultural structures in the vineyard. We have filed an appeal and are waiting for a court hearing date.
Our current focus is working closely with our lawyer to prepare for the reregistration session in early May. We hope that this will be the last step before a final decision is made by the Israeli Civil Administration’s Reregistration Committee. At the same time, we are in regular contact with European consular officials and US Embassy personnel to keep them updated about the case and to ask them to continue putting pressure on Israel to complete the reregistration process. (Click here, or see below for updated information on FOTONNA’s Advocacy effort.)
In the last few weeks, we were very thankful to be accompanied by some international friends to the farm, like the EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) Bethlehem team and other international volunteers from Jerusalem. The ongoing presence of internationals at TON is very important not only for protection, but to continue working the land, and to encourage participants to return to their home countries with determination to be people of hope, working to make a difference. With the help of our volunteers, we managed to plant about 100 olive and other trees so far. Thanks must go to all who participated and helped us replant some of the trees that were lost during the fire and other destructive events on the farm. (Click here for more information on volunteering at Tent of Nations Farm.)
We are glad that we were able to host some visitor groups in January and February from USA, Germany and France. We are expecting about 10 groups from different countries visiting the Tent of Nations this coming March.
Despite all of the destruction that we experienced in the last two years and the challenges that we are facing, we are still determined not to give up but to repair the damages, replant new trees and move forward.
Our journey of faith, love, and hope will continue.
Blessings and Salaam,
Director, Tent of Nations
— People Building Bridges
Facebook: Tent of Nations/Nassar Farm
Many of you who have been to the Tent of Nations have noted that the first thing you see when arriving at the farm off route 60 is not the TON rock painted with the welcome: “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” Instead, we are greeted by large boulders that seal off the road to the Nassar farm. Visitors need to disembark from their vehicle and walk between the boulders to reach the farm. Like so many challenges the Nassar’s face, these large boulders are just one more obstacle among many imposed to close down their farm and wear down their faith.
On my first trip to the farm, this sight of the large boulders at the entrance brought to my mind the women who walked a long, lonely road to the tomb on Easter morning with a question on their mind: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? The stone is too large, and we are just a few.”
We all know that feeling well. Who will roll away these stones of ongoing violence and the violation of human rights and international law? Who will roll away these stones of the occupation, the separation wall, and the injustices?” Who will roll away these stones that keep trying to crush the hope of innocent people simply trying to have a life of opportunity and peace like all of us? My voice sometimes sounds like that of the women coming to the tomb on Easter morning, lamenting: “The stone is so large, and we are just a few. Who will roll away the stone for us?”
But then I remember and am deeply moved by Daoud who, though brutally beaten alongside his brother, Daher, rises back up to his feet and remains fervent in his courage and conviction, focused with even more determination on pressing on toward the re-registration of his family’s land. As Daoud said in a recent interview with PCUSA mission worker, Doug Dicks: “The challenges of stones sealing a dark tomb can’t stop us from moving forward because we have the light of the resurrection. The way toward justice is long, but we will see the son of justice rise again.” The remarkable witness of Daoud, Daher and the Nassar family is that God is in the resurrection business.
Their witness reminds and inspires us that:
A stone gets rolled away every time courage overcomes fear.
A stone gets rolled away every time love conquers hatred.
A stone gets rolled away every time forces of life overcome forces of destruction and death.
A stone gets rolled away whenever light overcomes darkness.
And your witness is inspiring as well as you continue your advocacy work and financial support, walking this long road beside the Nassars as we chip away at these large stones until they crack apart. Your efforts remind me of the old Pete Seeger song:
One man’s hands can’t tear a prison down.
Two men’s hands can’t tear a prison down.
But if two and two and fifty make a million
We’ll see that day come round
We’ll see that day come round.
We may seem like few, but as we work with others who share our passion, stones will get rolled away. As Daoud reminds us “we will see the son of justice rise again.”
If you’d like to extend your personal words of support and love to Daoud and the Nassar family as Daoud and Daher continue to recover from the recent attack and work toward land re-registration, you may send a postcard to the family at:
Tent of Nations
St. Peter’s Cross Road 1
Palestine via Israel
Onward and upward as we travel with them in the way of faith, love and hope.
Charlie Lewis, (FOTONNA Steering Committee Chair)
So much has happened since we reached out to you in July last year and asked for your assistance with the “Save Tent of Nations” petition. You and over 3,600 from the U.S. and across the world signed the petition requesting Secretary Blinken to take action. It was delivered to the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem soon thereafter. U.S. Embassy personnel visited the farm for the first time in seven years in October and have since continued their close communication with and support for the family.
Leading up to the December 13th hearing, with the help of many of you, and in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace, we began a focused approach with certain congressional offices. We asked these representatives and senators to add their voices to yours/ours in requesting the State Department to urge Israeli officials to move ahead to complete the re-registration of the Nassar family farm. In October, November, and early December we met with staff in 16 congressional offices — often with constituents involved. The reports we received back from staff indicate that many of these offices did communicate their concerns to the State Department and received a response.
In addition to sharing a clear “ask” with the Congressional staffer, the strongest part of the meetings was having constituents share their first-hand experience of visiting TON, the impact it made on them, and their convictions about the need for TON to be able to continue its work of peace making and justice seeking by bringing to completion the re-registration of their land.
In anticipation of the early May re-registration hearing, we have continued to update congressional offices about events on the Nassar family farm and the urgency of the re-registration process. We are asking senators and representatives to continue shining a light on the re-registration case with Israeli officials. In early April, we will provide you with talking points and documents that you can use to contact your elected officials.
The physical presence of volunteers on the land is one thing that has protected the land and the family. That presence has been lacking over the past two years due to the pandemic. With travel opening again, it is becoming possible for volunteers to travel to Palestine and work alongside the family on the farm. There is a great deal of work to be done to repair the land from the fire and the physical destruction of facilities on the farm that has occurred during the past 18 months. And volunteers and the family are beginning to plant trees.
While visitors are always welcome, and pilgrimage groups are beginning to schedule visits to the farm once again, it is volunteers willing to be present for two weeks or more who are most needed. To learn more about volunteering at Tent of Nations, visit the volunteer section of their website http://www.tentofnations.org/volunteer/ to learn about expectations, roles, timing, travel, and other details. After reading the information, a first step on the volunteer journey is to complete the application and send it to Daoud.
Patience and flexibility will be keys to your functioning in this fast-changing situation. But, we know these are skills you have been practicing in the midst of the pandemic. So, consider this opportunity to be in solidarity with the Nassar family and TON, and let others know about it.
If you want to connect with someone who volunteered at the farm for a summer, please contact Andie Sweetman, FOTONNA’s volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Together in solidarity with you and the Nassars,
Beth Moore, Tour Planning and Finance Co-Director
Your generous prayers, presence, and gifts mean so much to everyone involved with Tent of Nations. Thank you! 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 have already sent yours, thank you! If not, and 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!
In closing, reflect on these words of Bethlehemite Grace Al-Zoughbi Arteen:
My prayer daily in this bruised and broken land is “Let your kingdom come, Lord,
let your kingdom come in the face of injustice, in the face of persecution,
in the face of all that is dark and in spite of all that comes against the kingdom of Light.”
Thank you for all the ways you are walking on the FOTONNA road with the Nassars!
Heidi Saikaly, FOTONNA Steering Committee Communications Co-Director