BBC Profile: Tent of Nations

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Freshly picked apples at the Tent of Nations. (photo: Daniel Silas Adamson)

The Christian family refusing to give up its Bethlehem hill farm.

By Daniel Silas Adamson / BBC News
June 18, 2014

[Ed. note: Although three years old, we thought this article by the BBC might be of interest to our readership.]


“My father always said, ‘We will never achieve peace in Palestine and Israel just by shaking hands — we need to work on people, to start with the grassroots.’ So what we do now, as a family, is fulfilling the dream of my father that people can build bridges, for hope, for understanding, reconciliation, dialogue, to achieve peace. This is the idea.”
— Amal Nassar


On his farm outside Bethlehem, Daher Nassar is picking apples from the ruins of the orchard he planted at least eight years ago. The fruit is scattered across ground freshly opened and imprinted with the tracks of a bulldozer. At the field’s edge, branches reach out from inside a mound of earth, the bark stripped and mangled, unripe almonds still clinging to the trees.

On 19 May [2014] a Palestinian shepherd from the village of Nahalin was out at first light and saw the bulldozer at work in the field, guarded by Israeli soldiers. By the time Nassar arrived the whole orchard — the best part of a decade’s work — was gone. His English is far from fluent, but there’s no mistaking the pain in his voice: “Why you broke the trees?”

A spokesperson for the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank said the trees were planted illegally on state land.

Nassar’s sister, Amal, has a different explanation. The government, together with the Israeli settlers who live around the farm, is “trying to push us to violence or push us to leave,” she says. Amal insists that her family will not move from the land, nor will they abandon their commitment to peaceful resistance.

“Nobody can force us to hate,” she says. “We refuse to be enemies.”

That phrase, which is painted on a stone at the entrance to the farm, was first used by her father, Bishara Nassar. Long before the concept became widely known among Palestinians, he taught his children a theory of non-violence that was rooted in his own Christian beliefs.

Bishara (“Gospel”) Nassar was a child when his father bought this land in 1916. Even at that time, as World War One transformed the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire limped to an end, Palestinian Christians were beginning to emigrate. After the war of 1948 the Christian exodus from the West Bank quickened, and Bishara, who was a gifted preacher and accordionist, began to travel round the nearby villages, singing songs and leading Bible study in family homes. Music and stories, he thought, might deepen the faith and lift the spirits of Bethlehem’s Christian children, encouraging them to stay.

Bishara also came to believe that the Christian community had a special role to play in building a more peaceful future.

“My father always said, ‘We will never achieve peace in Palestine and Israel just by shaking hands — we need to work on people, to start with the grassroots’,” says Amal Nassar. “So what we do now, as a family, is fulfilling the dream of my father that people can build bridges, for hope, for understanding, reconciliation, dialogue, to achieve peace. This is the idea.”

[Read the full article here . . . ]

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