Dear Friends, This will be an update on the following items:
- Advisory Council meeting on November 17, 2019/Update from Daoud
- Notice about both Spring and Fall 2020 Tours
- Reflections from Fall Tour 2019
- Museum of the Palestinian People – August 2020 Tour Invitation
Advisory Council Meeting – November 17, 2019 Once again, Daoud gave a moving and upbeat report to the Advisory Council members in attendance at our annual meeting. Bill and I were able to attend via cell phone call, so we didn’t miss out on his message. We also welcomed a new AC member to our group. Bud Hensgen has visited the farm three times, and, as an artist, captured the horror of the “wall” in all of its grim reality on canvas. Always, when I find my hope flagging and my energy becoming depleted, Daoud can always remind me of why we support his Tent of Nations dream with his message of hope, faith and love. His energy rejuvenates me, and I remember the first time I ever heard his story. And, even though I have heard it hundreds of times since, I always am in awe of the Nassar family’s persistence, patience and hard work that seems to be in an endless supply. I do not know how they do it, but they must get their energy from people like you who continue to support them in both small and large ways. Your gifts are truly appreciated. Which brings me to the good news: we were able to fund his 2019 budget in full with an excess going forward into 2020. Again, if you know Daoud and plan on a trip in the near future and are willing to take some cash to him, please let me know: Kay Plitt – <firstname.lastname@example.org>. UPDATE FROM THE NASSAR FARM – Minutes from the Meeting
- Daoud spoke about the current state of affairs at the farm. The Israelis have a plan to annex portions of the West Bank, such as the Jordan Valley, and the settlement blocks. They want to build a railway between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.
- The demolition orders found recently resulted in an appeal which is underway.
- The military agreed that Daoud can register the land which will be the third time he’s done so since the appeal to register the land was filed in 2015.
- Visits to the land are increasing. Last year there were over 10,000 visitors, and this year the projection is for 15,000.
- Mission of Tent of Nations – to show how the negatives can be turned into positives.
- The story of Tent of Nations is being taught in German schools and also in the International School in Jerusalem. The Friends School in Ramallah also brings students to visit the farm.
- TON continues with the regular programs at the farm; they are also planning educational programs for volunteers at the farm.
- Daoud emphasized that TON is empowering locals and provides hope for 11,000 other people, including the villagers of Nahalin. He acknowledged it’s a heavy responsibility.
- The Women’s Center is doing well. There are 17 participants of which some are between 15-17 years old. The Village Council is in the process of opening another Women’s Center of their own. Jihan encourages women to attend the Village’s Women’s Center and that TON will continue to support them in any way they can.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France and Germany gave their Human Rights Award to the Tent of Nations in January of this year.
- Daoud reported that he recently used grant money to purchase a used tractor, in good shape, which is suitable for cultivating on a steep slope.
Since we started working on the semi-annual tours in 2007, thousands of people have heard his story just here in the U.S. alone. He continues to tour in many parts of Europe, and this year there were over 15,000 volunteers and visitors who made their way past the boulders on the road to the farm and either worked there or stayed for lunch or overnight or even just a few hours and heard the family story. The impact is felt; the story of hope lives on through everyone who comes into contact with this remarkable family. The “other side of the story” is being heard around the world.
2020 Spring Tour – Tentative
May 12-14 – Atlanta, GA
May 15 or 16 – Lexington
Louisville, KY May 20
Cincinnati, OH May 26
2020 Fall Tour – Tentative November 2020 – Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and possibly New Brunswick.
This will be Daoud’s first tour in parts of Canada; groups have been asking for a couple of years to have him come for a visit. There seems to be strong support for him there, and we are happy to finally be able to accommodate their requests. If you know of any groups at any of these venues who would be likely to sponsor a presentation, please get in touch with our Tour Coordinator, Beth Moore at: <email@example.com>.
Reflections from the Fall 2019 Tour From Virginia Wadsley – attendee at one of Daoud’s Des Moines, Iowa presentations – in her annual Christmas letter:
I’m having difficulty writing my annual message of hope this year as the pandemic of hatred, perversity, and ugliness infecting the globe crescendos, amplified by the media. Yet, little reported and less known are manifold voices of peace and love-some quiet some loud-that endure. Our better angels carry on! An outstanding example for me has been meeting Daoud Nassar, third generation of the 100-acre Tent of Nations farm on a hill near Bethlehem where “the hopes and fears of all the years are met.” Unlike in the carol, the area does not “lie still.” Road access, water, and electricity have been cut off. Building permits have been denied. Land ownership is continually challenged in court. Still, in the face of such aggression, this Christian Palestinian family’s lived motto is “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” Their educational and environmentally restorative practices include planting two fruit or olive trees for every one of many hundreds bulldozed, children’s and women’s empowerment activities, and hosting numerous visitors and volunteers from around the world, including Israelis, to promote understanding and peace.
With Gratitude – Reflections from Beth Moore on the Fall 2019 Tour In this season of giving thanks, we found many things for which to be grateful during our fall tour in Iowa. We are always buoyed up by the many people who have visited Palestine and the farm and come to express gratitude to Daoud for his work and witness of refusing to be an enemy. And, we know that for many, this may be the first time they have heard in any detail about the lives of Palestinians living under occupation. We are glad for their presence.
Daoud and I travelled 1,200 miles in 10 days, and we spoke on 20 different occasions to groups ranging in size from four to 100. We were present on six college campuses speaking in classes and at public community events and in four congregational settings. We were warmly welcomed in six homes as overnight guests. By the end, we touched three states – Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois.
Throughout we were given the gifts of surprise, laughter and joy.
* I discovered, and Daoud was reminded of, the rich history which Iowa Lutheranism shares with Palestine and the Nassar family. Wartburg College sent groups to the farm in the early 1990’s under the tutelage of Professor Fred Strickert. In those years, they planted tomatoes. We met some of the individuals who’d been on those early trips and have maintained their commitment to active support for human rights for the Palestinian people.
* We never knew who would show up! Sometimes we wondered if anyone would, and then, at the last minute, they came. In Forest City, we met two men who’d driven from St. Louis to have their Winnebago trailer fixed. They saw the event advertised, and they came to Waldorf University to hear the story. In Ames, Iowa, we met a couple who’d driven from Waukesha, Wisconsin to visit a college friend and to hear Daoud’s story.
* Those who came to hear the story were exactly the people who needed to be there. We relished the news of people planning to visit the farm and the opportunities that surfaced for future cooperation. We spoke with several faculty and students expressing an interest in visiting the farm and volunteering there. Connections made with individuals currently living in Ramallah may bring an opportunity for Daoud to have the native plants on the farm catalogued.
* We encouraged one another. Some people shared their anger and despair over the situation in Israel/Palestine, and then they shared their gratitude for this story of hope and steadfast commitment to non-violent resistance to occupation; it gave them a new motivation to continue their activism. Daoud met long-time friends of the Nassar family, Sam and Lois Seikaly, in Omaha. Sam, now in his 80’s, used to bring groups to the farm, and he calls Daoud every time he is in the U.S.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our gratitude for the organizing team for the tour – all of whom live in Iowa and are engaged with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Peace Not Walls initiative. We depend on people like them, and like you, to identify possible venues and make the personal invitation to those locations to consider sponsoring a visit from Daoud. Often, at the closing of a public presentation, I would share a quote or poem as a sending forth. This time, I used a quotation from Jan Richardson, artist and poet: “It matters that we hold the light for one another and bear witness to the Light that holds us all across oceans, across borders, across time.” This time together was truly a holding of the light for each other and bearing witness to it.
Museum of the Palestinian People – August Tour Invitation Experience the Holy Land; experience Palestinian culture, food and hospitality. The trip will be focused on getting to know the people and culture and meeting peace-making organizations on the ground. The trip will be August 1st – 11th. Expenses are $1,980 per person plus your flight. Bshara Nassar, Founder and Director of the Museum of the Palestinian People, will be leading the trip. He can be contacted at: Bshara Nassar <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call him at 202-499-8959. Spaces are limted and deadline is Sunday Feburary 23rd
Remember, you can also find out about tours sponsored by Eyewitness Palestine (previously Inter-faith Peacebuilders – IFPB) on their website. Their next tour is in June 2020.
Thanks for joining us. Kay Plitt – FOTONNA Director of Finance/Communications