Monday, June 2, 2014

A Merciless Massacre of Trees

Nasser family homestead before and after
Our friend and fellow house church member, Margie Vlasits, just returned from a two-week study and work trip to Israel/Palestine two weeks ago. One of the stories she told was that of the Daoud Nasser family, Lutheran Palestinians who operate a fruit and nut farm just outside of Bethlehen on the West Bank.

The state of Israel has claimed large portions of land Palestinian have lived on for generations, insisting on land holders having officially documented deeds going back to the days of the Ottoman empire of a hundred years ago. Most Palestinians don't have such papers, but the Nasser family was an exception. But since their property was seen as vital to nearby (illegal?) Jewish settlements, other means were used to try to get them to leave voluntarily, such as cutting off their water and power supply and finally giving them a blank check for compensation for the property, an offer the Nassers were unwilling to accept.

Here is an except from a description of this family who simply wished to stay on their ancestral farm, one they have called a"Tent of Nations", hospitable to all people regardless of their faith or ethnic background [from The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (InterVarsity Press, 2012)]:

(Recently)...when soldiers stopped Daoud’s car in the middle of the night and forced him, over his protests, to pull his children from their sleep, he did not return anger for the insult. Instead, he spoke to his children in English, which the soldiers understood as well, saying, “Do not be afraid. These soldiers are people. They are young and frightened like you. They are human beings too. So don’t be scared.” A change came over the soldiers, and they completed their search quickly. When they finished, the squad commander approached Daoud humbly and spoke to him as a fellow man, rather than a suspected terrorist: “I am sorry that we did that. Please apologize to your children on my behalf.”

Faced with an unrelenting attempt to isolate the farm from the outside world, the Nassars have become pioneers in homesteading and turned their farm into a living laboratory of self-sufficiency. They installed solar panels that soak in the Mediterranean sun and provide twenty-four-hour electricity throughout the property, including electric lights in many of the caves. During the 2009 shelling of Gaza, visible from their land, Daoud and his family channeled their frustration and helplessness into digging another of the now eleven cisterns that collect rainwater and provide a reserve of thousands of liters of water (powered by the solar pump). Four water-less compost toilets stand opposite the pens where egg-bearing chickens and milk-yielding goats cluck and bleat.

And, having been blessed with abundance springing out of seemingly hopeless soil, they are committed to sharing their harvest with Israelis and Palestinians alike. So they run summer camps for youth that bridge religions and nationalities, operate a guest house and job training center for women in the nearby village, and host thousands of visitors annually from around the world. 

Now for the rest of the story:

On May 20, the day after Margie returned home, news came that the Israeli military had bulldozed all 1500-2000 trees on the Nasser homestead and left the family heartbroken and stripped of their means of livelihood. Many of their olive trees were over a thousand years old.

Please check out this link by a concerned Jewish rabbi for more details and for a petition you can sign appealing for justice for this family..

And please pray for the peace of Jerusalem as a home for all Palestinian and Jewish alike. The kind of injustice done to the Nassers scars everyone in the region and inflames the passions of those who believe violence is the only way to achieve peace.

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