Sitting in a small cave on a hill a few kilometres outside Bethlehem, Amal Nassar explains the ethos of the Tent of Nations – “when the settlers destroy a few of our olive trees, we get out there the next day and plant twice as many”.
The Nassars see this as their unique form of peaceful protest.
The Tent of Nations is both a farm and a social project. As well as growing olives and grapes, it runs camps for local children from Bethlehem and the surrounding areas, bringing artists and educationalists from across the world.
This on its own would be a remarkable story but – as the quote above suggests – the Tent of Nations has another tale to tell.
In 1991 the Israelis submitted a confiscation order to the Nassar family. This is because the hill that houses the Nassar farm is surrounded by five Israeli settlements – some of them only five hundred metres away.
Amal tell us how the settlements have grown significantly over the past few years and, with Netanyahu’s spending on Israeli settlements having increased by 38% (the population is growing twice as fast as the population of Israel itself), the suspicion is that Israeli authorities might seek to merge the smaller settlements into one larger whole.
It is worth being reminded that the international community sees Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal and, while Israel disputes this, the Geneva Convention clearly forbids an occupying power to “transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
The Nassars have fought the confiscation since 1991 in the courts. And they have a strong legal footing as the family holds original ownership documentation dating back to 1916.
Compost toilets with settlements behind
The vision for the Tent of Nations is a compelling one and the struggles of the Nassar family are another example of the plight of everyday Palestinians who just want to farm their land in peace.
You can also read more about the Tent of Nations story on their website and can even buy a tree to support their ethos of peaceful protest.
You can see more pictures from the Tent of Nations here
-- ends --