The Common Good

A Refusal to Hate: Tent of Nations Family Responds to Destruction of Farmland

This week’s “10 Best Stories” missed an important news item from Palestine — not about Pope Francis but rather a family that practices what the pope preaches.

Photo via Tom Getman
Photo via Tom Getman

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Tent of Nations, in the Occupied West Bank, has become a sign of hope over the otherwise fruitless last decades of peace negotiations. Interlocutors have nibbled around the edges of a “two state solution” since the early 1990s with the result that Israel has been able to confiscate vast areas of Palestine. The Nassar family, represented by Daoud and his parents and siblings, have built on their 100 acres a veritable garden of peace. This luxuriant vineyard is 15 minutes from Manger Square, Bethlehem. It has been owned by the Nassars since Ottoman times, and “Tent” has illustrated, what is declared on a stone at its entrance – non-violent action in its most faithful form. More than 7,000 visitors from around the world along with children in summer camps, as well as both Israelis and Palestinians, have been buoyed by the Nassars' 100-year commitment to living peaceable amidst turmoil by expressing biblical principles of loving neighbors, forgiving those who oppress, and peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.

Early on May 19, military bulldozers destroyed 1,500 fruit trees nearly ready for harvest in the valley below the Nassar dwellings. There was no warning of the impending destruction of the trees and terraced land, left in a state of rubble with no hope of being replanted. Daoud said the family was awaiting word on an appeal submitted after military orders to stop cultivation; bulldozers came before a legal response.

Daoud said in a Churches for Middle East Peace phone conference that, “as terrible as this recent event is it gives another new opportunity to show our Christian principles of reconciliation by our refusal to hate.”

Ironically the word of this cruel, but not uncommon, action came as the Washington Episcopal Cathedral Companion Diocese Committee on Middle East partnerships was adjourning. We had moments before discussed what our ongoing peace-building agenda was to include. One was to host Daoud on his next visit. Our marching orders became urgent. This injustice must be addressed.

Many Sojourners reading about this situation will have visited the The Tent of Nations in the vortex of the ongoing terrible Palestinian suffering. If you want more information and suggestions about what co-workers for peace and justice can (must) do, see the Emergency Response Plan with further background from Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA).

One important response requested is for every congressional representatives’ office to be informed of this latest atrocity, which is but an illustration of the home and crop destruction that happens every day often under the cover of darkness and the reach of the media.

And while doing this simple faithful act may we never forget to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and the surrounding area.

Tom Getman was country director for World Vision in Israel and Palestine and lived in Jerusalem for five years. He is a Sojourner Board member.

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