Tent of Nations
People Building Bridges
Summer/Fall 2017 Newsletter
Greetings from the Tent of Nations (TON). It is been a while since you heard from us. We would like to share with you the latest news from the Tent of Nations, the situation on the ground, our concerns, but also to share with you hopeful stories, how we are trying to move forward, despite of all challenges we are facing.
They have completed the building of the Yeshiva School on land near the TON entrance road, and the school had an opening ceremony on September 1. We may face a permanent closure of our main access road to the farm. I already contacted the lawyer, and we will go legally trying to prevent that from happening. We will keep you posted and will inform you about any new developments regarding the road. At the same time, we would like to encourage more people to come and visit the Tent of Nations. This is the time we are more in need of international presence on the farm.
The legal struggle to keep the farm and prevent it from the danger of confiscation is now 26 years old. You can read about the timeline of our struggle on the FOTONNA website – www.fotonna.org – through 2014. Here is an update from that time forward.
In 2014, the Israeli Military bulldozed hundreds of mature fruit trees on the farm. After appealing, the Supreme Court issued an injunction against the uprooting and asked the military authorities to respond to the petition. This action was done without respect to the Supreme Court decision in 2007.
The Civil Administration responded that they did not find an application and therefore they assumed that none had ever been filed. The court concluded and gave us 90 days in order to apply for re-registration again. The Supreme Court ordered that we file the documents by April 20, 2015.
On April 19, 2015, we submitted another application for land re-registration. Since then nothing was heard from them about the status of the re-registration process.
In April 2016, the Civil Administration rejected both the objections to the demolition orders and the application for building the environmental and educational center on the farm. Our lawyer submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court, which gave the Israeli military authorities time to respond by April 21, 2016, to explain why the application for a building permit had been denied. The Civil Administration asked for another three months to respond by July 21, 2016. On July 21, they then requested an additional three-month extension (to October 21, 2016).
Independently from the October 21, 2016 date set by the Supreme Court, we got another two demolition orders for two agricultural structures. We were surprised because the two agricultural structures are already mentioned in the master plan submitted in February 2013.
On November 1, 2016, our attorney appealed again to the Supreme Court to get another injunction for these two agricultural buildings.
On November 7, 2016, the Supreme Court accepted our appeal which means that the military authorities cannot destroy both structures until the court case ends. In the injunction we received, the Supreme Court gave the Military Authority time until the 6th of January 2017 to give a response to our petition why our building permits applications have been always denied by the State. The January date was postponed until March, then postponed again until June and then it was postponed again until the 19th of September 2017. Here is the result of that court hearing; you can follow our progress on the Tent of Nations Facebook page.
The Supreme Court today returned the case regarding the demolition orders back to the military authorities, requesting us to reapply again for building permits including presenting a zoning plan.
The Supreme Court returned us back to the year 2013. At that time we presented a zoning plan with all building permit requests but it was denied. That is why we brought it to the Supreme Court which returned it back again today.
We were given 60 days’ time from today to prepare all the documents and apply again.
We thought the dark tunnel was coming to an end, but it looks like it is still too long.
We thank you all for standing with us. It is great to see and feel your prayers, support and solidarity. Thanks for all your emails, phone calls and messages.
I will send you an update as soon as I receive more information from our attorney. I will let you know if any action is needed.
Our journey for justice will continue with faith, love and hope.
Blessings and Salaam! Daoud Nassar
We thought the dark tunnel is coming to an end but it Looks like it is still too long.
We thank you all for standing with us. It is great to see and feel your prayers ,support and solidarity. Thanks for your emails, phone calls and messages.
I will send you an update as soon as I receive more information from our attorney. I will let you know if any action is needed.
Our journey for justice will Continue with faith, love and hope.
Blessings and Salaam.
Again our aim is to continue developing the farm and make it self-sustainable and self-supportive. By developing more new fields and planting new trees, we are making it more difficult to confiscate the farm. By developing new land and new projects, we keep our spirit high by investing the negative energy into a positive way.
Between January and March 2017, and with the support and help of many of our friends in different countries, we were able to build terraces and to cultivate more than 40 Dunums of land. We planted 1,752 new grape fruit and olive trees. It was a hard process working with heavy equipment first to level the ground and to build terraces and make it possible for a tractor to get there for cultivation. It was hard to plant in a steep area, but the real challenge was watering the new planted trees during the hot months. We started watering the trees by hand, beginning of May, and we will do it until the 30th of October 2017.
In May 2017, we started a bee project. We got five hives, and two volunteers from USA came for three months and helped with the bee project. We managed to harvest the first honey, and we got 30 kg of pure honey. It is really wonderful, and the farm shop is now full of products from the farm. It is great to see that the farm year by year is producing more products that will support itself financially.
We had our almond harvest this year end of July. The harvest was not good because it didn’t rain that much. The almonds are now sold in our farm shop. International volunteers came and helped during the harvest.
By the end August, we finished our fig and grape harvest season for this year. So far we made about 700 jars of fig and apple jam. We made 60 Litres of grape syrup, and we dried a lot of grapes to make raisins. We are trying to sell them in our farm shop to our guest groups. We have 15 volunteers right now who are helping with the harvest.
Special thanks to all people who sponsored or/and helped in planting trees on the farm this year. Thanks also to all who came and helped during the harvest months. Together, we always can make a difference.
We continue to work on infrastructure projects and improving volunteer facilities so people can work in a more comfortable environment and contribute to TON in so many different ways.
The solar power system is functioning well, although the batteries are becoming weaker and need to be replaced. The engineer said that we can’t add new batteries to the old ones; we will wait and then we can replace all the batteries with new ones.
Each year, we try to increase the capacity of collecting rain water in order to have a self-sufficiency in water. Water is life.
Waste water treatment unit:
By the end of December 2017, we hope to finish the second and the last phase of recycling the sewage water to be used for irrigation.
Composting and Biogas Fuel:
We are still in the process of building four new compost toilets. Compost toilets are saving a lot of water. The biogas fuel unit is already here. It is a pilot project, and the hope is to be able to produce biogas out of the compost to be used as cooking gas.
Those kinds of projects will help the Tent of Nations to become independent. This is important, especially after the Tent of Nations might become more isolated and disconnected from the city of Bethlehem.
We started the project last year; the system is for raising fish. The fish tank is connected through a pipe with three open tanks filled with stones and sand. When the water is flowing from the tank into the three open ones, it gets clean from the stones and sand and the fish waste stays there; the water continues to flow into the water tank and from there it is pumped back as clean water to the fish tank. With this system, we can raise fish to eat and grow vegetables in the open tanks.
From the heavy wind, the green house was destroyed. We started fixing it, and we hope to have it ready also for planting before winter starts.
The work on developing a better infrastructure for animals is a continuous project since the last two years. We stopped many times because of demolition orders, but we continue in small steps. The animal farm project is important for educational purposes during the children summer camps for bringing nature into the life of children but also for self-sufficiency. We want to grow our own food and eat from what the farm is producing.
In March 2017, we finished the second phase of the project. Volunteers from Germany came and helped. The garden was very useful during our children summer camp in July. Children were able to learn about the different plants, herbs and trees. Most of our children are coming from the cities and do not know that much about plants and trees.
TENT OF NATIONS EVENTS, ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS:
101 years celebrations:
In May 2017, we celebrated our 101 years of existence on the farm with a small group of international guests, locals and family members. We wanted to keep doing that every year.
We ended our celebration by a silent walk to the oldest olive tree we have at the Tent of Nations. Everyone walked to the tree and put his/her wish there. We will keep celebrating this every year, although the situation for us is getting more difficult and complicated, but it is a way to look forward and continue motivating ourselves.
We will have the 102 celebration next year; we would love you to be part of this special event. For more information, please check our website. We will put the dates soon.
Children Summer Camp:
Again this year, we had our 16th children summer camp for children from Bethlehem area and refugee camps. We had a group of international volunteers who came extra to help and to organize creative workshops for children. The title of the camp this year was: “I have a Dream”. We are working with traumatized children who are growing up in a difficult and complicated political context that will make it difficult and sometimes impossible to be positive. Through the summer camp, we want our children to discover their talents, to let them focus on their positives and to let them believe in themselves that they are able to shape their future. It is also an opportunity for international volunteers to be part of a positive project, and the idea is to motivate those volunteers to go back home and be peace makers in their own communities.
Bent Al-reef Women’s Project:
The women empowerment project in the village started offering activities and programs for this year on the 11th of September, and it will run until June (a school year) to enable women who have children or siblings at school to use a couple of the morning hours while children are at school to be part of those activities in order to learn, to be empowered and also to be active positively in their own society.
The program and activities are there to serve and encourage women to learn new skills, discover their talents and interests, develop their character, socialize, visit and interact and exchange thoughts and ideas with local and international women.
Two booklets reflecting projects completed by some of the women at the education center have been printed by FOTONNA through the help of donations: the “Palestinian Recipe Book” and a book of poetry entitled “Where I Am From…”. Both are given as gifts for donations to TON through FOTONNA when requested.
So far we had many volunteers who stayed and helped on the farm. Volunteers are a big support for the Tent of Nations. A special thank you for all who came and helped during the spring and summer 2017. Thank you for your support and solidarity. It is important to say that since we started to have an international presence of volunteers (since 2002), attacks from settlers had been stopped. International presence at the Tent of Nations made a big difference. If you have an interest to come and help, go to our website: www. tentofnations.org – fill out the form and send it to us. We would love to hear from you.
Come and See; Go and Tell:
Many visitors came to see the Tent of Nations last spring and summer to hear its story and challenges but also to learn about positive energy and hope. Some guest groups also stayed overnight in our new permanent tents. We are now, and since we are becoming more isolated, in need of more international guests to stop at the Tent of Nations. Please encourage more people to “Come and See” in order to “Go and Tell.”
Tent of Nations Events and Programs for 2018:
By the end of September, we will put all our programs and activities on the website. Please check it out. We would love to see you participating in one or more of our programs and activities.
We would like to thank you all for your prayers, for your continuous support, for your solidarity and for your commitment to peace with justice.
Our journey for justice will continue with faith, love and hope, carrying our cross, refusing to be enemies, transforming our pain into a positive energy that is able to change hearts and build a better future.
Blessings and Salaam,
Tent of Nations – People Building Bridges
We are including an article written by Brenda Curtis, a member of the Westminster United Church in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada. It is illustrative of the power behind a commitment to “Come and See; Go and Tell” that might give you all an incentive to involve your young children in supporting this struggle for peace with justice. They are our future leaders, and it is never too late to teach by modelling. Our thanks go to all of the adults and children who gave so generously so that more trees could be planted at the TON farm.
Tent of Nations – by Brenda Curtis – August 2017
In June 2017, I was privileged to be part of a group of United Church ministers from across Canada who participated in a “Come and See” Pilgrimage to Palestine. On June 5th (50 years to the day of the start of the 6-Day War and the Occupation of Palestine), our pilgrimage included a visit to the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem. We had just come from the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron that morning and were looking forward to having lunch with members of the Nassar family and some of their international visitors; however, when we arrived, the access road to the farm was completely blocked by a construction site connected to an illegal settlement.
After some phone calls and discussions between our guide, the bus driver and members of the Nassar family, a decision was made to detour through a village, which would take us the “back way” up to the farm. It was a long journey through many winding roads, but eventually we arrived, albeit much later than originally planned.
When we got to the Tent of Nations we were warmly welcomed by members of the Nassar family who invited us in to where they had a hot meal waiting for us. After thoroughly enjoying the delicious food prepared by Maladeh and her family, we gathered in a meeting room with Amal to hear the story of the Tent of Nations.
Amal shared the story of her family history on the land and the impact of the occupation on their lives. Even in the face of danger and the destruction of many orchards/olive trees, the Nassar family has shown tremendous courage, strength and tenacity. We were all deeply moved by Amal’s story and realized that the Tent of Nations is more than a farm site; it is a vestige of hope in the pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people.
After Amal talked with our group, she offered us the opportunity to sponsor a tree to replace those that had been destroyed by the Israeli Army/Illegal settlers. All of the members of our group purchased trees that day and prayed that our small contributions might make a difference for the Nassar family and their vision/dream for the land. Amal also mentioned that they would be very interested in making connections to groups in Canada. I assured Amal that I would take their story back with me and share it with the people of my faith community at Westminster United Church in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada.
When I got back to Canada, I realized that sponsoring trees through the Tent of Nations would be a great mission project for our Children’s Camp/Vacation Bible School (VBS) which was scheduled to take place in July. I mentioned this at one of our organizational meetings and everyone agreed. So, from July 17 to 21, we offered the children/families involved in our annual VBS program the opportunity to sponsor trees to be planted in the gardens and orchards of The Tent of Nations.
The Tent of Nations Mission Project was greeted with enthusiasm by the approximately 40 children/youth involved in the VBS program this year. The children/youth earned and gathered money for the project in a variety of ways: doing chores in the evenings at home to earn extra allowance money; putting up a stand and selling lemonade on their street; telling grandparents, aunts and uncles about Tent of Nations and asking them to donate; emptying their own piggy banks and contributing what they had.
As part of our opening worship each day, we took a mission offering, and then at the end of the day reported back what had been collected by keeping track of the number of trees sponsored. By the end of the week, the VBS program had raised $459.45 for the work of the Tent of Nations for planting trees! It was a cause for celebration!
The organizers of this year’s VBS program were very pleased with the efforts of the children/youth in support of the Tent of Nations. Our hope is that by connecting the children and their families to Tent of Nations, it will encourage them to find out more about the Palestinian Christians in the Middle East. Who knows? Perhaps some of these same children will one day volunteer at the Tent of Nations.
As we concluded our VBS program this year, I was reminded of my visit to the Tent of Nations in June. I remembered walking around and looking out at the illegal settlements now surrounding the farm on all sides. I thought about the perseverance of the Nassar family to continue to live on this land which has been part of their family for more than 100 years. The fact that the Nassars are able to stand firm in the face of what seem insurmountable odds is a testament to their unwavering faith and abiding love for the land of their ancestors.
At Westminster United Church in Humboldt, we hope that the contribution we were able to make from our VBS program this year will help in some small way to support the transformative work being done at Tent of Nations. At the very least, we hope it will show our solidarity with the Nassar family as we continue to pray for them in their struggle.