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
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”.
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 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.”
Political support for the project
“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.