My friend David is having some difficulty with his neighbors. They’re trying to take the farm his grandfather bought back in 1916 where his family has lived for three generations.
His father and grandfather always told him how important the land was for their family, and he’s determined to hang on to the fields and orchards his family has been cultivating for nearly a century.
“Without the land,” he says, “there is no future.”
His neighbors carry guns and they drive over his land and try to intimidate him. They say God gave them the land. They’re that kind of people. David has a more earthly claim – a deed to the land, and receipts for the taxes his family has paid on it. But it’s hard to get the cops to do anything.
One time the neighbors came with bulldozers and uprooted 250 trees in one of David’s orchards. The cops didn’t do anything.
Even though the government concedes that David’s family owns the land, they let his neighbors carry guns, and they’re allowed to shoot anyone they want any time they feel threatened.
That’s because David is actually Daoud, the Arabic form of the name, and his land is near Bethlehem, in the West Bank in Palestine. Daoud can’t dig a well or construct any buildings on his land without a permit, and the government will only give permits to Israeli settlers. Oftentimes he and his family can’t get their goods to market because of the Wall.
But Daoud Nassar, whom I met Monday evening, is undaunted. He refuses to be a victim and he refuses to hate anyone. He is determined to make the Nasser family land into an international center for peace — “A Tent for All Nations.”
His mission is “to develop and protect the land and to make the land a center for people from different countries to come together and build bridges of trust and hope.”
The Nassar family land has become a center for peace building and international understanding. They provide classes in computer skills, English and handicrafts for the women in the nearby villages. They run youth camps for children from the refugee camps and kids from other countries too, including Israel.
People from all over the world come to volunteer at the Tent for All Nations to plant trees, to help with the children’s activities and to teach classes.
Americans seem to have taken a collective vow to remain ignorant of the suffering of the Palestinian people and our role in perpetuating these sufferings. There are bomb fragments in the streets of Palestine that read “Made in USA.”
We once had a president with the backbone to stand up to the Israeli government and demand that they abide by international law, but his name was Ike and that was a long, long time ago.
But Daoud Nassar refuses to carry a grudge against anyone. As I spoke with him I was reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln: “malice toward none” and for the first time I saw a ray of hope in what many people see as an impossible situation.
He just wants to save his grandfather’s farm, and I think we should all help him.