On Monday I went to see Daoud Nassar speak at Stanford. His talk was sponsored by a Progressive Christian group on campus.
I'd already met Daoud, in Beit Jala, Bethlehem in April. He came to speak to members of my Lutheran congregation at one of our Wednesday Lenten Soup & Study nights. It was in the cozy living room of Jeff and Julie, we lit candles and sang familiar hymns, and after the service, before the soup, we listened to Daoud speak about his nearby farm, and the Tent of Nations.
At that point, I'd been in the West Bank for six months, and I didn't think I could really be surprised anymore. But I also didn't live near the wall, and near annexed East Jerusalem. His story both infuriated and inspired me, like so many stories do in Palestine.
Daoud's farm is surrounded by Israeli settlements that were built beyond the Green Line. If you see it on a map (on a humanitarian map), you'd probably think, pardon my French, that place is fucked!
The army has declared his farm State Land, almost everything is under demolition order, settlers have called and offered blank checks for the land, and Daoud has been fighting the Israeli courts since 1991, with legitimate paperwork from the Ottomans, British, Jordanians... If the Israelis rescind their demolition orders (which has never been done), they'll be setting a precedent that encourages Palestinians to follow Daoud's lead. That would be disastrous indeed. But Daoud always refused the checks, and refused to give up, because "the land is like our mother, and we don't sell our mother."
Today the Tent of Nations is a place where internationals, Israelis, and Palestinians can go to volunteer, learn about farming, hold workshops, camps, express their solidarity...like my project in Al Aqaba, it welcomes people into an endangered community.
I have an enormous amount of respect for Daoud, and I'm glad he was able to speak at Stanford. His message of steadfastness is so strong, and it's made stronger by the fact that he's a Christian. Unfortunately Christians have a disproportional amount of clout on the issue of Palestine. He talked about tourists coming to see Bethlehem, how they zip to the Church of the Nativity, then zip back to Jerusalem and rarely get to see the "living stones" in the Holy Land. If more Christians leave, then soon the Palestinian Christian community will only be dead stones, the churches will be like museums....that's a strong message to send to international Christians.
I remember him saying to us in Beit Jala that he couldn't envision a two-state, but he also couldn't envision a one-state solution, but if there is a solution, it will come from the bottom-up, through faith-building projects like this.
Donna and I had a really good conversation with Daoud and the guys who are traveling with him. We're all obviously interested in planning rights in Area C, so there's definitely a chance to work together. I suggested a website that shows all the projects in Area C that people can support. I went home and claimed a URL. I think starting Palestine-related websites has become something of an addiction.
Anyways, wonderful talk, and I hope to see Daoud again, especially back in Palestine, at the Tent of Nations, around a bonfire with fellow visitors. I wonder if they have a guitar...