We Refuse to be Enemies
After the intensity of Hebron, PSE had the final two private lectures with Mark Braverman, covering the importance of theology and where to from here. As someone who has never had an interest in theology or religion, the whole series with Mark was an eye opening experience to discover the reliance that Christian Zionism has on Old Testament theology - sidestepping the importance of Christ in the New Testament almost entirely - and the idea of Jesus as an anti-empire, pro-justice, human rights campaigner (you know, other than being the son of God, etc) by looking at several articles and Mark's own work Fatal Embrace.
Our last class with Mark took place at Tent of Nations, which is the Nasser family farm outside of Bethlehem. Mark is the founder of Friends of Tent of Nations North America. The Nasser farm is surrounded by and threatened by illegal Israeli hilltop settlements. The family's olive trees have been uprooted, the land has been confiscated for roads, and their movement is extremely difficult. While these settlements are in the West Bank - occupied territory - they are supported by the government with all services, including roads, transport, permission to build (and also, the lack of demolition orders for those buildings without permits), and all other social services. They also have water. The Nasser family, despite having documents of their ownership of the land, purchased in 1924, from the Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli occupations, has had to fight an enormous legal battle to remain on their land. The Israeli government declared the family farm and surrounding area to be Israeli state land in 1991, and since then the Nasser family, with substantial financial cost, has fought this illegal acquisition in the Israeli courts - from the military courts (the farm falls under 'Area C' - under full Israeli military and civil control) to the Israeli Supreme Court. The settlements have managed to confiscate some land, while other land has been thankfully saved from being used to build roads into the settlements. The farm's own road has been blocked with large stones by the Israeli military, preventing the Nasser family from expanding on their own land. In fact, the very simple structures of tents or shade have been given demolition orders. The farm has no running water or electricity. The toilets outside are eco-compost toilets - not bad in order to promote conservation, but not exactly ideal either, given that the settlements next door are made to modern standards. Imagine, 20 years of trying to get recognition that the place that you live has been the place that you have lived for generations?
Daoud Nasser, however, has refused to allow this experience to create an antagonistic mindset for him of 'the other'. We Refuse To Be Enemies is the theme of Tent of Nations - and they do this in a variety of ways, including welcoming children's summer camps, women's groups, as well as welcoming international, religious and social justice groups - including Israeli peace groups. Here's a bit more about Tent of Nations: