I returned home Sunday night, May 21, after what I feel will be my last trip to Bethlehem); even with the wonderful hospitality of friends there. But still, my time there, amongst the people on the land, was truly the best ever.

Why so?  The experience can be captured in two events.  One was at the party in a fashionably new hotel in Beit Sahour following high school graduation  of the family’s daughter at Dar Kalima.  Young people and their friends and families danced the night away in great joy, as if they had not a care in the world. 

The other event was at the municipal center of Taibe, Israel, where a gathering of over 400 Palestinian Arab leaders, including several members of the Palestinian Knesset coalition, participated in the first-ever conference called “Arab Human Capital in Israel”.  The purposes of the conference were to gain unity amongst the various factions of the political society and to establish some common goals and strategies for future work.  I was invited, as one of several internationals present, to be a witness to this moment.  We had simultaneous translation support for most of the morning presentations so I could follow the conversations.

Each of these separate events reminded me of the unrelenting commitment of Palestinians on both sides of the wall to maintain their cultural dignity and their resolute persistence in seeking justice that guarantees their human rights.  I found the atmosphere of both of these events to be energizing.  I will share more about these activities at another time.  Suffice it to say that “Samoud” is still alive there!

In spite of the restrictions on the land due to the construction nearby, a new Children’s Labyrinth Garden now exists with fresh plants bordering the paths within the garden; it faces the rising walls of the yeshiva school nearby.  During the summer, the voices of children will no doubt be heard from the garden as they joyfully try to find their way in and out of the labyrinth among the green bushes.  The children will also add new plants, over time, which will line the path like a bridge connecting them to the land rather than serve as a barrier to understanding “the other” as perhaps the walls of the yeshiva might do.

The long-term plan is still about the movement to economic self-sufficiency.  As the fruits of the trees and plants begin to produce more substantially, and the wine-making production grows, it is hoped that products from the land will  be available at the gift shop to sell to the visitors to the land.  The implications are that the project will be less and less dependent on outside funds and will become more and more independent by relying on the family’s own production efforts.  In such a transition that is taking place now and will, hopefully, continue beyond today, it remains to be a place where people can learn about each other’s stories, take the farm’s products back to their homes, and continue to share the story of hope that they both saw and experienced while visiting the Tent of Nations.  Inshallah!

Might the yeshiva students possibly share courses on forgiveness

and reconciliation with students at Tent of Nations at some future time?

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