One of my favorite places to visit when we’re in the Holy Land is the Tent of Nations. It’s actually one of the most peaceful parcels of land in the midst of great turmoil. My friend Doud Nasser is the head of the farm, and each time I visit, his father Dahar greats me with a big hug and a smile.
The unique part of the Nasser farm is that they are living smack dab in the middle of Area C. Since the Oslo Accords, the West Bank has been divided into three areas. Area A is under full Palestinian government administration and security. Area B is under Palestinian civil authority and joint security control. And area C is totally controlled by Israeli civil authority and security.
The intention of these three areas was to set up a transfer time from the Israeli government over to the Palestinian government, but this is the area where you hear about Israeli Settlements. Under International Law the controversy begins when Israeli neighborhoods pop up in the intended Palestinian land. This is the basis of conflict over land, control, and the security. It’s also much of the reason you hear about uprisings in the news.
In any event…
The Nasser Farm is located in Area C under full Israeli civil authority and security. With the expansion of the Settlement movement, the Nassars are actually sitting on top of a hill surrounded by Israeli settlements, and as they continue to farm, they becoming increasingly more and more worried that they’ll be removed from their land, and pushed into another area.
If it’s already starting to get confusing…hold on.
The Nassars have already been approached by the Israeli government to pick up their farm and move even though they have a working business. They’ve been on the land for the last 100 years, and have a land deed title from the Ottoman Empire. Evidently Daoud’s grandfather had the foresight enough to go to the Ottomans in the early 1900’s to have a signed deed (very unusual for Palestinian farmers pre-1948) So when the Israeli government tried to annex the farm, the family provided the deed of ownership. Unfortunately, since the real estate is in such a desired location, the Nasser’s have been in Israeli court for nearly 20 years trying to prove their ownership. Each time they go back to the officials, they are faced with another problem to prove themselves.
In the meantime, they’ve been denied building permits to build anything new on the property from the Israeli civil authorities, so they’re left trying to work in creative ways. Water, electricity, and the necessary infrastructure is tough to work through without the help of the civil authority, but their spirit is undeterred.
One of the most inspiring stories from the Tent of Nations is their spirit of resilience. They are farming thousands of produce producing trees even though the difficulties of farming, finding a market, and transporting product is let’s say “more than challenging.”
The Nassers are a case study in how this conflict reaches to the common people. Israelis are trying to find space to put their people. The Palestinians are trying to retain their rights to the land. This is prime conflict, and you can quickly how confrontations might arise.
The Nassers have been visited by the army and told to move, they’ve lost access to their roads to town, and they’re constantly trying to farm the land in freedom. And even though they feel the pressure of the conflict, they are resolved to turn the farm into a place to love and show the world you don’t have to be enemies when life starts turning a different way.
They’ve told the stories of inviting local Israelis who are surprised they’ve even been able to continue under the pressure from the civil authorities. They’ve invited the world to come and see the farm, help volunteer at the farm, and give them a clear picture of what Jesus would do when conflict arises.
On the road to the entrance is a rock painted with the words, “We Refuse To Be Enemies.” And they’re teaching people what it means to love inside of a conflict, instead of giving over to fear and hatred.
If ever I’ve seen the heart of Jesus played out in real time, these Palestinian Christians have adopted the message of a revolutionary who lived down the road almost 2000 years ago.