Eyewitness Palestine Delegations Inspire Bill Plitt to Deeper Understanding and New Activism | Visit Prompts Creation of Friends of Tent of Nations
Bill Plitt had lived a fulsome, varied, intentional, service-oriented life as a teacher, education consultant, master teacher and administrator. So when a friend told him that the Eyewitness Palestine (then called Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation he’d just signed up for would change his life, Bill was skeptical. It was unlike Bill’s kind, open-minded nature to express cynicism but, to himself, he thought, “Not at my age.”
The friend was prescient. “The delegation experience with Interfaith Peace-Builders was really the strategy for gaining a new perspective of a narrative I had not heard before,” Bill said. For many subsequent years, Bill exclusively credited his Eyewitness Palestine delegations for setting him on his current path. Upon deeper reflection now, however, Bill believes that his delegations were among several life experiences leading him to the work he does today. Those experiences include his lifelong career as an educator, graduate work in conflict resolution, a deep and abiding faith in God, and a student’s comment two days after 9/11.
Bill arrived at school early that day and found one of his students seated at the back of the class. She was a Palestinian from Bethlehem. “Her first words to me were, ‘Mr. Plitt, I am so very sorry for the loss of your people, but perhaps now you know how we who live under the occupation feel every day’,” Bill recalled. “I wasn’t sure what she meant, but her statement lingered on for another five years, and was no doubt the voice that moved me to seek to be a delegate on my first Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation.”
In 2006, Bill joined Eyewitness Palestine’s first Olive Harvest delegation, a trip that included harvesting olives at the Nassar family farm outside Bethlehem, the site of the Tent of Nations (TON), an educational and environmental family farm dedicated to building bridges between people, and between people and the land. There he met Daoud Nassar and Daoud’s family, and began a lifelong friendship. Even though it was fall, for Bill, a seed was planted.
Throughout the following year, Bill and two friends, Bill Mims and Mark Braverman, discussed ways in which they could bring meaning to their visits to Palestine/Israel and make a difference in the conflict. “Together, we determined that our time at the Tent of Nations was a defining point for each of us,” Bill said. “We made a commitment to support the Tent of Nations project located on the Nassar family farm where we had harvested olives during the day, and heard the family’s story around the warm camp fire at night.”
In 2007, the three friends founded Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA) to support the work of TON in numerous ways. Since his first Eyewitness Palestine delegation, Bill said, “it has been a journey that has led me to some unlikely places, in various roles.”