The following is an updated historical timeline of the political processes that have taken place at the Tent of Nations Peace Project as of October 2017. We will keep you informed, as needed, when circumstances change on the land. Please be prepared to act on behalf of the family if necessary.
You will also find updates related to the increasing number of special projects taking place on the farm. The Nassar family is always planning ahead to a time when the farm will be fully self-sufficient. It may take a few more years, but the family perseveres through difficult times.
Land Process – Timeline of Events:
1991 The beginning of the Legal process to re-register the Nassar farm began after the Civil Administration authority declared the whole farm to be State Land with the exception of the family home and surrounding small gardens.
2002 After an eleven-year legal battle, an Appeal to the Military Court failed and the land was established as State Land. An Appeal was made to the Supreme Court in 2006 (see results in 2007).
2006 The Nassars submitted objections to new demolition orders as well as to the rejection by the Civil Administration of a plan for an Education Center. This rejection was based on the following three reasons: 1) the family had not submitted proof of ownership; 2) they saw no need for a school in the area; and 3) the buildings did not fit into the current Israeli zoning guidelines.
2007 The Supreme Court responded to a previously submitted Appeal by the family and indicated that it could renew its re-registration process providing the possibility that the contested land could then be deemed private land after the re-registration was completed.
2008 The Nassars submitted their first of two re-registration packets. Between 2008 and 2012, the family submitted several applications for building permits, but was denied each time.
2010 The Military Authority issued nine demolition orders to remove buildings, tents, animal sheds and restrooms which they claimed the family had no permission to build. The Nassars went to court to stop the demolitions, and no action was taken on the part of the Military courts.
2011 A court decision was made, without the family’s lawyer present, to follow through on the demolition orders because of a plan to build an Israeli-only road nearby. The lawyer intervened.
2012 In February, papers with maps signed by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (which is the Israeli Military Government) were found on the land giving the family 45 days to appeal their claim to the land or the land would become State Land. This order covered one-third of the existing 100-acre farm. The family lawyer filed an appeal immediately.
In May, demolition orders were posted on a portion of the farm in the valley in the same manner as the earlier notices. This time the authorities identified a cistern which had been in use for ten years that was scheduled to be demolished within three days. While the order was contested, the Court ruled in favor of the Military.
In December, the Nassar family received notice that their appeal to the Military Court had been denied. The Nassars were given 45 days (January 30, 2013 deadline) to demolish the structures themselves or reapply for permits which cost $1,500 per structure. Under the ‘New Rules’ they also needed to submit a future zoning plan, including all structures, and sign an agreement that, if the permits are denied, they would pay for the costs of demolishing the structures. They reapplied again for permanent registration of their land.
2013 In January, the family lawyer was told the following needed to be completed by February 24, 2013; all items were accomplished on time:
2014 In January, three “stop cultivation” orders were found on the land. The Nassars had their lawyer prepare an Appeal to the orders.
In May, the Israeli Military bulldozed between 1,500 and 2,000 fruit-bearing trees growing in the lower valley of the farm and destroyed the terraced land that had been cleared for planting. There was no forewarning given, and this was an illegal act on the part of the IDF as there was an active Appeal in process.
2015 The Nassars submitted a second registration packet because the authorities claimed they could not find the original application that the family had submitted in 2008; the family had proof of submission. No official action on that initial application had taken place since 2008.
Two more demolition orders on previously identified agricultural structures were found left on the land by the authorities.
Israelis approved a permit for the building of a Yeshiva (a school for the training of religious settlers) on land adjacent to the farm; the family had submitted a similar plan for a school as early as 2006 but was denied such permission.
2016 Israelis began bulldozing/grading the land for the Yeshiva and began the construction of infrastructure for the huge complex.
The Nassars submitted a request to the Supreme Court for an explanation as to why the military authorities had not earlier approved a permit for the family to build an Education and Environmental Center on their family farm and why two additional demolition orders were submitted. The Supreme Court gave the military authorities until April 21 to provide explanations. The Military Court requested further delays in providing answers to the authorities until July 21 and then again to October 21.
In October, the military authorities rejected an Appeal to the demolition of the two agricultural structures and to the issue of building permits for the school on the basis that they could not grant permits until the farm was officially re-registered in the name of the Nassar family according to a modern GPS system. Essentially, the government argument is that because one branch of the Military Authority cannot complete the review of the re-registration application in a timely manner (Office of Land Registration), another branch of the Authority cannot issue building permits. It basically states that because one branch of the Military government (the Land Registrar) is not efficient and does not handle requests in a timely manner, it gives another branch of the Military government (the Building Supervision Committee) the excuse to destroy some one’s property!
On November 1, the family attorney appealed again to the Supreme Court to get another injunction for these two agricultural buildings.
On November 7, the Supreme Court accepted this appeal which means that the military authorities cannot destroy both structures until the court case ends. In the injunction they received, the Supreme Court gave the Military Authority time until the 6th of January 2017 to give a response to the petition why the 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, at which time the Supreme Court charged the military committee to come to Court to explain why the family has been denied a building permit.
2017 In September, the Yeshiva school was opened for students to begin attendance.
The Court hearing was held on September 19, 2017. The following statement reflects the results of that hearing. (You can follow progress on this case 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
The aim is to continue developing the farm and make it self-sustainable and self-supportive. By developing more new fields and planting new trees, the family is making it more difficult for the Military Courts to confiscate the farm. By developing new land and new projects, the family is keeping their spirit high by investing the negative energy into a positive way.
New cave renovations, improvement in the volunteer sleeping facilities, completion of the Farm/Gift Shop, expansion of the animal farm, additional kitchen facilities and a new campsite are just a few of the projects that have been completed since 2010.
The solar power system is functioning well, although the batteries are becoming weaker and need to be replaced. New batteries can’t be added to the old ones; all the batteries will need to be replaced at the same time. The family is still hoping to install two small wind turbines for generating electricity to help charge the batteries in the night hours and also during the winter time. The Tent of Nations is 950m (3,000+ feet) above sea level with more than enough wind.
Each year, the capacity of collecting rain water in order to have self-sufficiency in water is increased. Water is life.
Waste Water Treatment Unit:
By the end of December 2017, the plan is to finish the second and the final phase of recycling the sewage water to be used for irrigation.
Composting and Biogas Fuel:
The process of building four new compost toilets is ongoing. Compost toilets save a lot of water. The biogas fuel unit is already functioning; 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.
These kinds of projects will help the Tent of Nations become independent. This is important, especially after the Tent of Nations might become more isolated and disconnected from the city of Bethlehem.
This project was started in 2016; 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, fish can be raised to eat and vegetables can be grown in the open tanks.
The green house was destroyed in early 2016 by heavy winds. Repairs were started; it should be ready for planting before the end of 2017.
The work on developing a better infrastructure for animals has been a continuous project over 2016 and 2017. Work was stopped many times because of demolition orders, but it was continued in small steps. The animal farm project is important for educational purposes during the Children’s Summer Camps for bringing nature into the life of children; the aim is also for self-sufficiency. The plan is to grow the family’s own food and eat from what the farm is producing.
In March 2017, the second phase of this project was completed; volunteers from Germany came and helped. The garden was very useful during the Children’s Summer Camp in July. The children were able to learn about the different plants, herbs and trees. Most of the children are coming from the cities and do not know that much about plants and trees.
In May 2017, two volunteers from the U.S. brought five beehives to the farm and spent three months helping with the beehive project. The first honey was harvested, resulting in 30 kg (66 lbs.) of pure honey. The farm shop is now full of products from the farm. Year by year, the farm becomes more self-sufficient.
TENT OF NATIONS EVENTS, ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS:
100 and 101 Years Celebrations:
In May 2016, 100 years of existence on the farm was celebrated with a large group of international guests, locals and family members. In May 2017, the 101st year anniversary was celebrated but with a smaller group in attendance. The celebration ended with a silent walk to the oldest olive tree at the Tent of Nations. Everyone walked to the tree and put his/her wish there. This celebration will continue to be held in May of each upcoming year. For more information, please check the Tent of Nations website and make plans to celebrate with the family and friends.
Children’s Summer Camp:
Every year since 2001, a two-week Children’s Summer Camp has been organized for children from the Bethlehem area and refugee camps. International volunteers come to provide extra help and to organize creative workshops for children. These are children who are often traumatized by growing up in a difficult and complicated political context that will make it difficult and sometimes impossible to be positive. Through the summer camp experience, children are encouraged to discover their talents and focus on their positives, helping them believe in themselves and 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 within their own communities.
Bent Al-reef Women’s Project:
Each school year, the Women’s Empowerment Project in the village offers activities and programs to enable women to be empowered and 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 in Nahalin have been printed by FOTONNA through the help of donations: the “Palestinian Recipe Book” and a book of poetry entitled “Where I Am From…” (three-language and nine-language versions). These are given as complimentary gifts, when requested, for donations to TON through FOTONNA. To make a donation, please visit the FOTONNA website: www.fotonna.org.
Volunteers are a big support for the Tent of Nations. It is important to say that since the beginning of the international presence of volunteers on the land (since 2002), attacks from settlers have been stopped. International presence at the Tent of Nations made a big difference. If you are interested in going and helping out, visit this website: www. tentofnations.org; simply fill out the volunteer form and send it in. Scholarship funds are available for those who might need financial support in order to go.
Come and See; Go and Tell:
Many visitors come to hear about the story and the challenges faced by the Nassar family; they also learn about positive energy and hope. Guest groups can stay overnight, making use of some new permanent tents that have been erected. Since the farm is becoming more and more isolated, there is a great need for more international guests to stop at the Tent of Nations. Please “Come and See” in order to “Go and Tell.”
Tent of Nations Events and Programs for 2018:
By the end of September 2017, all of the programs and activities on the farm will be found on the Tent of Nations website. Please check it out; the Nassar family would love to see you participating in one or more of their programs and activities.
Note from Daoud:
With the end of 2017, we will have completed 26 years of a legal battle with the Israeli Authorities with more than $200,000 spent on legal expenses since 1991. But the positive outcome is that we are still on the farm, and we did not lose any part of the land.
Today, and after 26 years, we will continue this struggle for justice without giving up and we will keep working hard on different levels to prevent our farm from being confiscated. Although we are going through many challenges, the candle of hope is still burning inside this dark tunnel until we see the sun of justice rising again.
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 – Daoud Nassar, Director – Tent of Nations – People Building Bridges – September 2017
Tours in the U.S. and Other Countries:
Since Daoud’s first tour in the U.S. that was sponsored by Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA) in 2007, he has visited places in DC, Ohio, California, Illinois, Iowa, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, Washington, Texas, Colorado and Kentucky.
He has spoken in churches, mosques, high schools, college and university classes and private homes. He has made presentations and served on discussion panels at various national organization conferences, and he has been sponsored by other organizations, such as Tree of Life and Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Other members of the Nassar family have also been invited to share the family’s story, including the three Nassar children who have travelled with Daoud and Jihan to the U.S.
Daoud has also told his story in many other countries as well as the U.S. These include England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Scotland and Italy to name a few. The story never gets old.