Camping in Palestine

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Spent last night “real camping” in Palestine.

The last time I went camping, I said it was the really going to be my last time. I appreciate being bug free at night and having running water.

This was different though.

We were at the Tent of Nations, a resistance Palestinian property, surrounded by violent settlers who are waiting for the right moment to attack the village.

The Tent of Nations is an NGO, in Zone C in the West Bank. It’s on 100 acres of property owned by the Nasser family just a few miles south of Bethlehem.

The Nasser family, a Palestinian Christian family, purchased this land over 100 years ago. They have documents though tracing the land ownership back through the Ottoman Empire. They have been working on the land and living in the caves on it since they acquired it.

In 1991, the Apartheid State of Israel declared the Nasser family’s property, state property. Just like that, they attempted to strip the family of their land ownership without any due process or even a logical basis.

The Nasser family responded by going to court. Their court case has been pending for 27 years.

During this time, they’ve been subject to the following:

1. their electricity has been permanently cut off. They must rely on natural light and solar power only
2. their water supply is non-existent. They must filter rain water to drink
3. there is no plumbing development permitted on the property, which means we used compost toilets
4. the authorities won’t grant building permits of any sort, and so residents and guests reside in tents
5. the settlers constantly threaten the family and property, including one instance when they cut down 1,500 trees and another where they showed up armed and threatening violence

Every single hill top in the area has been stolen by Israeli settlers. They’ve built luxury homes on stolen land.

Israeli authorities constantly surveil the property and send demolition notices when their helicopters spy anything that looks like a structure of any sort.

Residents and guests constantly worry about surveillance and harassment.

So the Nasser family decided to make their grandfather’s dream a reality as a means of resistance. They created the Tent of Nations.

It’s a communal farm of sorts, where guests come to learn about the Israeli theft of Palestinian land, work the land with the Nasser family, and be in community. Nearly 8,000 visitors from all over the world came to the Tent of Nations last year.

The settlers don’t often try to attack the site when there are Americans and Europeans visiting and volunteering on the site. However, our presence doesn’t change the harsh living conditions the Nasser family resides in.

As I scratch the bug bites from a night camping on the farm, I can’t help but think that I can choose to go back to my hotel. For the Nasser family, this is their reality amid racist settlers who are trying to invade their land on behalf of an apartheid state which is younger than their land ownership.

This family’s resistance is staying right where they are, holding the space they own, and inviting all of us to come camping with them.