Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA) was founded as an all-volunteer charitable corporation in November 2007. A Steering Committee was formed for the purpose of supporting the work of FOTONNA and Tent of Nations (TON); all members but one have traveled to Palestine/Israel. As of January 20, 2014, the current committee members are:
Bill Plitt is an educator who continues to share stories of hope that he has heard from both Palestinians and Israelis on multiple trips to the Middle East since 2006.
Daoud is a Christian Palestinian who, along with his extended family, works a farm known as Daher’s Vineyard. He is the Director of Tent of Nations.
Bill Mims is a part-time substance-abuse counselor and retired airline pilot. He is a Quaker and has visited TON often between 2006 and 2011.
Nadia is an American-Palestinian who has a great personal interest in the events unfolding in the Middle East as she currently has family still living in Palestine.
Kay is a part-time administrative assistant with a non-profit that serves children living in housing crisis and is the financial manager of another small non-profit serving Northern Virginia.
Mike is involved with agricultural biotechnology issues, a natural extension of his work on the family dairy and grain farm in Ohio, which he still oversees.
Beth is a retired educator who spent several years coordinating tours through her work as Director of the Office of Global Education at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Mark is a Jewish-American with deep family roots in Palestine; he has both lived and worked there. Mark’s writing can be found at: www.markbraverman.org.
FOTONNA STEERING COMMITTEE BIO SKETCHES
– as of 10/22/14 –
Bill Plitt – Executive Director
Bill currently serves as a volunteer with the following organizations: Israel/Palestine Mission Network (PCUSA), Middle East Concerns Team & Mission Coordinating Committee (National Capital Presbytery), Sabeel, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PCUSA), Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) delegate, and supporter of Combatants for Peace.
Bill first came into contact with Tent of Nations in 2006 as he traveled with an IFPB group, and he helped co-found FOTONNA in 2007. He has traveled to the farm each year from 2006-2013, led a woman’s course in communications at Bent Al Reef Center, facilitated four travel groups to the farm in 2010, and traveled with Daoud on 13 US tours.
The Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation experience in 2006 was a transformative experience for him. He has returned eight times to visit, work, and demonstrate solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian peace groups. Such experiences have led to numerous opportunities to make presentations, preach in churches, and lead the study of the conflict through the “Steadfast Hope: A Palestinian Quest for a Just Peace” (PCUSA) materials in DC area churches. He has written several articles for publication on his experiences. For many years, he taught in various high schools and used this experience to serve as a consultant with Columbia University through their grant program; he worked with large urban school districts on the East Coast about the challenges and opportunities of working with at-risk student populations.
Daoud Nassar – Director of Operations
Daoud is a native of Bethlehem, Palestine. He is married to Jihan Nassar, and they have three young children in their family. Daoud is a Palestinian Christian, fluent in Arabic, German and English, with a Degree in Biblical Studies from a Bible School in Austria, a BA Degree in Business from Bethlehem University, and a Degree in Tourism Management from Bielefeld University in Germany. He manages the farm known as Daher’s Vineyard located in the West Bank of Palestine and directs the work of the programs and projects known as Tent of Nations.
Annually, nearly 7,000 international tourists visit the Nassar family’s ancestral land – a 100-acre hilltop site situated between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. The attraction is the Tent of Nations, an open and free enclave that serves as an educational and cultural center for local Palestinians and Israelis, including the international visitors.
The Nassar family land, purchased in 1916 by Daoud Nassar’s grandfather, is surrounded by Jewish settlements on three sides and the Palestinian village of Nahalin on the fourth. The land is cut off from sources of water and electricity, and the family is resisting the loss of their land by going through the courts with proof of ownership and by employing non-violent responses to Israeli laws that limit growth and personal freedom. Activities such as planting olive trees, developing alternative energy sources, and improving ways to collect, store and use water supplies wisely are just some of the ways in which the Nassars fight for human dignity.
Tent of Nations also offers summer camps for Arab youth so that through shared activities they may learn about one another. Women from Nahalin are enrolled throughout the year at the Women’s Education Center in courses such as English, Computer Science, Management, Accounting and Creative Writing. Students at Bethlehem University have the opportunity to perform service projects on the land itself as a part of their degree studies. Through Tent of Nations, Daoud works each day to prepare the people on the land for the day when the walls come down.
Bill Mims – Secretary
Bill is active in the work of his Quaker community, especially in the area of peace seeking. He maintains a connection with Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) and is on the Policy Committee of the Friends Committee for National Legislation. He is a Trustee of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, Quakers, and is a member of the Israel-Palestine working group of the Yearly Meeting.
Bill first visited Daoud’s land in 2006 as an IFPB delegate. He returned in 2008 and 2010 in order to touch the land and remain familiar with the situation in Israel/Palestine. In 2008, he co-facilitated a course in empowerment at the Bent al Reef Women’s Center along with Bill Plitt.
He has followed the situation in Palestine for several years. When Bill went to see things with his own eyes in 2006, he found he could not NOT do something. Thanks to his involvement with FOTONNA, he has been able to work for Justice in a small way.
Nadia Itraish – Director of Outreach and Advisory Council Liaison
Nadia is currently working at Freddie Mac as a consultant after many years of full-time work there. She is actively engaged in Palestinian- and Arab-related groups and activities in the Washington, DC area such as ADC, AAI, USPCN (United States Palestinian Community Network).
Nadia first met Daoud in August 2009 when she visited the Tent of Nations farm. He and his family’s work made such a powerful impact on her that she felt compelled to actively support his mission.
She is a Palestinian-born American whose parents and other family members currently live in the West Bank.
Kay Plitt – Director of Finance/Communication
Kay works part-time with The Reading Connection, a small non-profit that serves at-risk children in the DC/Maryland/Virginia communities by providing free books and lessons for the parents and their support workers on how to read and choose good books. She is kept busy with her volunteer work with FOTONNA and the Urban Alternatives Foundation.
The first involvement Kay had with Daoud was indirect. Bill Plitt and Bill Mims had visited the farm on their trip in November 2006 and spent a year pondering how to support TON along with Mark Braverman and Steve France. When they decided to create Friends of Tent of Nations North America as a non-profit organization, it was a natural fit to agree to serve as Director of Finance as she had experience in that area. She needed little persuasion, as the passion for the work of Peace with Justice in Israel/Palestine that these four men felt was ‘contagious.’
Kay hasn’t traveled to Israel/Palestine, but she has accompanied Daoud and Jihan on many of the US tours. Instead of going on a tour herself, she supports IFPB group tours with scholarship money for college students so they can go.
Michael Phillips – Director of Fundraising/Business Advisor
Mike is president of MJ Phillips and Associates LLC, an agricultural consulting firm that specializes in agricultural biotechnology issues. He was the Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources for the National Academy of Sciences and has extensive experiences in directing food and agricultural policy studies for congressional committees. He was on the faculty at Purdue University and served as a senior staff member for the Secretary of Agriculture.
Mike has M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio State and Purdue University and a B.S. degree in agricultural economics and animal science. He is also a farmer and was raised on the family’s dairy and grain farm in northern Ohio which he still oversees as manager.
In May of 2013, Mike traveled with his church group from Springfield, VA to the Holy Land and had an opportunity to visit the Nassar Farm. Mike will bring his skills in business and agriculture to our mission as we support the efforts of the Nassars to build another way of living out our faith and in resisting the present Israeli Occupation in a nonviolent way.
Beth Moore – Director of Tour Planning
As an educator, Beth’s experiences have encompassed teaching in public schools, running a day care center, serving as a general manager in a worker-owned cooperative, working in health education in a village in India and, most recently, completing twenty years as director of an office of international education at a small Catholic university.
She brings a variety of managerial skills to her current volunteer commitments which now include serving on the Board of Directors of her local food coop, working with a newly formed Social Justice Fund in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and now working with FOTONNA to assist with tour coordination.
While having been conversant with the issues surrounding mid-east conflicts, and having had the opportunity to travel extensively, Beth’s first visit to Palestine occurred in November 2013 at which time she visited the Tent of Nations and participated in the 25th anniversary conference of SABEEL.
Mark Braverman – Senior Consultant
Mark is trained in clinical psychology and crisis management and has worked with groups and individuals undergoing traumatic stress. He serves on the Advisory Board of Friends of Sabeel North America and has been appointed Consultant for Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. Mark currently serves as Executive Director of Kairos USA, a movement to unite U.S. Christians to take a prophetic stand for a just peace. He is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land (Beaufort Books, 2011) and A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine (Jericho Books, 2012).
Traveling to Israel/Palestine in 2006 with Interfaith Peace-Builders, Mark was transformed by witnessing the occupation of Palestine and by encounters with peace activists and civil society leaders from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities. He met Daoud at Tent of Nations that summer and was convinced of the importance of the Nassar family’s work and the importance of establishing a link with communities in the United States. Upon his return to the United States, Mark began the work of co-founding Friends of Tent of Nations North America.
Mark is a Jewish American with deep family roots in Israel/Palestine. His grandfather, a fifth-generation Palestinian Jew, was born in Jerusalem, emigrating to the U.S. as a young man. Growing up in the United States, Mark was reared in the Jewish tradition, studying the Bible, Hebrew literature and Jewish history. He now devotes himself full time to the work for a just peace in the Holy Land. Besides his work with FOTONNA, Mark writes and speaks widely on his own journey and the role of religious beliefs in the current struggle for a just peace.