Bethlehem: Daoud Nassar’s “Tent of Nations”, Peacefully Holding the Fort – Süddeutsche Zeitung/ – News


On his hill south-west of Bethlehem, Palestinian Christian Daoud Nassar offers Muslims and Jews a place where they can come together in peace. But settlers’ expansion plans mean it is a place whose existence is under constant threat. Peter Münch paid it a visit

: Daoud Nassar (photo: D. Lamotte)
Plenty of obstacles to overcome: Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian among Muslims and Jews

On a day intended for a celebration of the sun it is cold and wet in “Daher’s Vineyard”. Heavy raindrops bounce off the solar panels that adorn the roof of the hut where Daoud Nassar is welcoming his guests. They have come all the way from Germany to inaugurate his new solar heating system; but on a day when solar power should finally have brought electricity to the Nasser family, here on their hill southwest of Bethlehem, the rain has come instead. 

The guests may be looking a shade morose under the grey skies but Daoud Nasser is positively beaming. “This is a blessing,” he says, “now we can get our water tanks filled. We don’t have a tap water supply here either.”

A “Tent of Nations”

Daoud Nasser is nothing if not positive. He is someone who is prepared to make the best out of even the most difficult situations. And there is no shortage of opportunities to practice that skill, up here on his hill in the West Bank, and as a Christian among Muslims and Jews.

The property, bought by his grandfather Daher Nassar in 1916, is now surrounded on all sides by Israeli settlements. Up here on his 950-metre-high hill Nasser continues to hold the fort – but rather than repelling invaders he has built a place where people can come together, his “Tent of Nations”.

A rock that reads 'We refuse to be enemies' in English, Arabic, and German (photo: Bahl Photo)
Refusing to be enemies: For Daoud Nassar’s farm, demolition is a constant threat; but at various spots on his territory, there a proclamations of peace to be found

It is a place where Israelis and Palestinians can meet, with each other, as well with others from all over the world, and then there are the Jewish groups from America. They come to plant trees, perform plays, talk about freedom and build bridges. On a rock near the entrance Daoud Nassar has written a message in many languages: “We refuse to be enemies.” 

It is not a sentiment shared by everyone in the region, and Daoud Nasser has had plenty of obstacles to overcome – one quite literally, when a huge boulder suddenly appeared in the middle of the access road to his property. Since then the old vineyard has been accessible only on foot. The intention is clearly to drive him away.

“This would be an ideal site for a new settlement,” he says, and it is this is very likely that led to his land suddenly being declared state territory by the Israelis in 1991. He has been fighting the threatened expropriation in the courts ever since.

Documents from God

“I have documents from the Ottoman period; from the British, the Jordanians and the Israelis too, all of them affirming our ownership of this land,” he says. They do not give him any peace of mind or sense of security however. When he recently responded to a demand that he clear out from a settler with an American accent by telling him about the documents, the reply was: “Our documents are from God.”

It is a no-holds-barred struggle for the land that is being waged here and Daoud Nasser still has no water or electricity supply to his land despite the fact that there are connections to all the surrounding settlements. He is not allowed to build anything, not even to erect a tent, and if he does, he immediately receives an order to demolish or take it down.

Political support for the project

Rock art at the Tent of Nations that says 'Learning Hope, Planting Peace' in English and Arabic (photo: D. Lamotte)
Against all odds: “There is good news from Palestine too,” Daoud Nassar says

Demolition is a constant threat. In order to ensure the safety of his solar energy system, a German delegation has turned up for the opening. Rupert Neudeck, whose Green Helmet humanitarian organisation installed the 60,000 euro system, praises “the sun for Palestine.” It took him more than two years to get the necessary batteries and solar panels through the intricacies of Israeli bureaucracy and the West Bank barrier. 

“One can’t just drop it all in from the air,” he says. Neudeck has also brought along Ruprecht Polenz, member of the German Christian Democratic Party and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, who promises political support to allow the project “to endure.”

Daoud Nasser now has German protection, as it were, and there are it seems major plans afoot – there is talk of setting up workshops here for young Palestinians and of a network of solar energy systems throughout the West Bank. There will be obstacles to be overcome at every step, however, as Nassar knows only too well from experience.

But he knows also that there is light at the end of every tunnel. And that even in the midst of the conflict between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents moments come along that show just how easy it would actually be to live peacefully alongside one another.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Margret Powell-Joss says:

    Very encouraging article; we are looking forward to a visit to Oban, Argyll, Scotland, from Daoud Nassar on 19 May 2011.
    Impressed to see also the connection to Green Helmets!
    May Peace prevail.
    Best wishes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.