Eye-to-Eye. . . Hill-to-Hill - Tent of Nations, Bethlehem
Israel wants this hilltop. It is one of the highest around. The government and the nearby Settlers have been trying to take it for decades. But the Nassar family has lived here and worked its land for 3 generations. And they have original land deeds dating back far beyond their arrival.
This is their land. They belong here.
The road leading from the farm down to Bethlehem has been barricaded with concrete and tires and fencing. What was a 15 minute drive is now 45 minutes — so now they allow more time to bring their crops to market. Water is not supplied, neither is electricity — so now they capture rainwater; solar panels bring power.
For 10 years they have been applying for a building permit to improve the site. For 10 years they have been denied. “Your stamped original land deeds don’t reverse the fact that this land was given to us by God.” They resist. They prevail.
And they are pacifists.
8,000 international visitors a year are witnesses to the power of their human spirit.
Amal Nassar’s soft and determined voice delivered the history of this farm and its endurance against failed assaults. She closed with the following poignant story:
Amal enrolled in a Music Therapy class. There she made a connection with a classmate. The woman lived across the valley in the illegal Israeli settlement. She was unaware of the history or the existence of the Nassar farm. She was also unaware of a recent nighttime assault on the Tent of Nations where 1,500 trees were uprooted by Israeli settlers. These were her very own neighbors, and yet she was unaware…The police were called but little was done to punish the criminals or to compensate the Nassars for the devastating damage to their crop. Amal Nassar invited the woman to visit the farm. The reality of the violence and the proximity of their two hills was a painful realization. Lives as separate as the two communities.
The settler woman gathered a group of neighbors from her world and they worked at replanting olive seedlings in Daher’s world. A human connection created some hope where there was separation. Anger was replaced by communication. Each woman would look to the other’s hill with new eyes. But the imminent threat from Israeli occupiers remains.
We spent a night at this magical place. The twinkling lights at sunset would belie the painful reality of dawn. But as we exchanged hugs and waved goodbye, I saw the signs which would enrich my soul.
We Refuse To Be Enemies
Go. Tell. Act
Once again, we climbed over the barricade at the end of the road. But now I had a story to share. I was the 8,001st to visit this year. I was given the gift of this Palestinian family and changed by their indomitable Nassar spirit. I would follow the good guidance on the last messages they delivered.