Demolishing Peace in Palestine…Tent by Tent
This piece is by guest writer Ruth Cape
“We refuse to be enemies” is the sentiment upon which the ‘Tent of Nations’ project in Palestine is built. Painted on a stone which greets every visitor to the Nassar family farm, the phrase encaptures the deep sense of humanity and strong will which emanates from the 100 acres of land and the family who own it. Resting on a hill not far from Bethlehem in the West Bank, this farm – which has been in the family since 1916 – is the base for a project known as ‘Tent of Nations’, started up in 2000 by the offspring of Bishara Nassar. Inspired by their father’s vision to use his land for peace, his children created a space for bringing together people of different cultures, backgrounds and religions, teaching about international cooperation and nonviolent conflict resolution and connecting people to the land. Over the last ten years it has achieved a huge amount in terms of keeping hope alive for Palestinians, enlightening people from around the world about what is going on and encouraging dialogue and positive communication to overcome conflicts the world over.
In the last few days the farm where the project is based was visited by Israeli soldiers and has been issued with demolition orders on nine of the structures on their land. These include tents, animal shelters, restrooms, water cisterns and underground renovated caves among others.
Essentially the family are left with two options. One is to accept the situation and wait for the Israeli Military to arrive with their bulldozers. The other is to continue the legal battle by bringing this case in front of the Supreme Court in Israel which might rule to freeze the demolition orders until it takes a decision. Despite the huge financial burden of the latter option, the family will continue to defend the land that they own and love. In the words of Daoud Nassar, the director of Tent of Nations;
“We are people who believe in Justice, we will continue our just struggle and will bring this case in front of the Israeli Supreme Court.”
This decision reflects the constant and unbelievably untarnished sense of hope that every member of this family holds. This is also the gift that they share with every person who steps foot on their land and which they work tirelessly to share with their fellow Palestinians. The demolition of these buildings would not only be a horrendous loss for an innocent family but would be a huge and deeply worrying dent on work towards intercultural understanding and cooperation.
This kind of work in invaluable to the progress of any attempt at a peace process.
I volunteered on the farm for six weeks last summer. The project has reached out to a vast number of volunteers and visitors over the years and there is a strong network of people all over the world who feel a connection to this farm and to the process of building bridges in Palestine. I feel that particularly in light of the recent Gaza flotilla attack, it is vitally important that people in this country get some idea of the kind of injustices that normal Palestinian families are being faced with every day, which is why stories like these must get out and get talked about.
Sadly this is by no means a unique case. The world has to wake up to the realities of life in Palestine. It is impossible to know how many more alarm bells need to be rung in the face of the international community before real and effective action is taken but in the meantime we must all do what we can to arouse the people who can make a difference from their blind slumber.
I left the farm last August with the sense that anything can be achieved if you have half the sheer motivation, will-power and patience that this family put into making their dreams a reality.
Let us follow in their admirable footsteps – stay active and stay hopeful.
For the moment, here are some actions that you can take:
- sign the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/stop-the-demolition-of-nassar-family-farmtent-of-nations-buildings/It
- write to your Israeli ambassador, describing the case and asking them to look in to the case and use their position to encourage the Supreme Court of Israel to freeze the demolition orders. Find yours at http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/Diplomatic+missions/Web+Sites+of+Israeli+Missions+Abroad.htm
For more information see
- Friends of Tent of Nations update http://www.foton.org.uk/?p=38
- Travelogue of my time at Tent of Nations http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/ruthcape/5/tpod.html