I made my way to the Tent of Nations, located on a piece of land 10km south west of Bethlehem near the Palestinian village of Nahhalin, a piece of farmland so high that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv may be seen. I came to clear weeds and rocks from olive and almond trees so the falling dew would hit the soil and reach their roots. Their mission is building bridges between people, and between people to the land, to bring people of various cultures together to build understanding, reconciliation and peace. Their long-term goal is to prepare youth to make positive contributions to their future and society through the values of understanding, tolerance, and respectful coexistence. These goals are achieved through education-awareness campaigns, youth empowerment, and work camps.
Until 1987, the family lived in caves, now re-purposed for group gatherings and a chapel. An area that gathers winter rain water for one of their 5 cisterns is also used as a theatre and group presentations. During their camps, the children artistically express themselves, such as creating this wise men’s camels mosaic with broken tiles. International students regularly come to work the farm and assist with the camps. It is also supported by an international board, some of whom are Presbyterian.
The challenge, not unique to Palestinian farmers, is this land is under threat of confiscation by the Israeli military, therefore they aim to demonstrate solidarity with the local people and to keep the land productive, keeping the Tent of Nations projects alive. Daoud Nasser, who with his father and grandfather have legally owned the and since 1916, is using court action to prove that it is theirs and to peacefully resist its confiscation. The land is surrounded settlements on 3 sides, all within the green line of the West Bank. On this map they are on the left, just above Nahhalin.
One no longer asks why the road to their property is blocked by the military, nor asks why the military on May 19th uprooted and buried 1500 of their fruit bearing trees, or why their power and water are cut off or why Israel grants no permits to build on their own land or gives them no reason for doing any of this. These are small questions to the larger answer that Israel is strategically ethnically cleansing Palestine to possess all land to the Jordan River. Below you can see the most recent tree removal, in the bottom of the valley – not even the terraces remain.