In 2018 Irish Methodist Gillian Kingston was part of an international delegation that awarded the annual World Methodist Peace Prize to Daoud Nassar of the Tent of Nations. Gillian is a Vice-President of the World Methodist Council. The prize recognized the consistent and creative work by the Nassar family to resist pressure by the Israeli Government to abandon their small farm, which is surrounded by Israeli Settlements that are illegal under the terms of international law. The farm provides workshops for young people in organic farming and upholds the essential equality of all human beings regardless of race or religion. The following is a series of photos from Gillian’s trip to the Nassar family.
The Israeli authorities have blocked the entrance to the Nassar family farm with piles of rubble, preventing vehicular access. Some of the World Methodist Council group and two of the younger members of the Nassar family are climbing over/around this. Access to many Palestinian properties and Bedouin encampments is similarly blocked, rendering emergency access almost impossible.
The gate to the farm, with one of the fourth generation of the family. She has just returned from a day at school. The young people must walk to school as there is no transport provided and the roads are, in any case, often subject to road blocks. The notice reads: ‘People Building Bridges’, the family’s philosophy.
Looking through the wooden fencing round the farm, one can see one of the many illegal settlements on the hill the other side of the valley. These settlements are in contravention of international law. They are built on Palestinian land. The Tent of Nations is surrounded by such settlements and the family has been subject to harassment and abuse by settlers.
Another view of the same settlement. These settlements have full access to water and other services, in stark contrast to what is available to the historic Palestinian communities.
This painted boulder stands inside the gate to the farm; it displays the name and
motto of the project in Arabic and English, with a rainbow of hope for the future.
Another boulder (and there are plenty of boulders in this barren and rocky terrain!), declares, in three languages (Arabic, English and German), that ‘We refuse to be enemies’. Green shoots peep around it – there is always hope.
Daher is the eldest brother in this third generation of the Nasser family. He showed the WMC party round the farm, its caves and building, the gardens and meeting places.
Daher is speaking to the group inside the cave which was the family’s early home in the area. There are many caves in this area and they have traditionally provided dwelling and storage places. The family has lived in seven of these caves.
The mural in this meeting place shows a star and three camels (Matthew 2), recognizing that people are welcome from far-off places to this Tent of Nations.
Daoud Nassar, another of the third-generation and the spokesperson for the family, stands by a container of precious water, preparing for the planting of a lemon tree to mark the WMC visit. As there is little, if any, water supply to the farm (or to any Palestinian farm), the family must plant trees and crops which require minimum water for growth. Water melons, for example, a traditional crop, can no longer be grown as they require a good deal of water.
To mark the visit, we were invited to plant a lemon tree. We all took turns to dig, with varying degrees of effectiveness. And that’s the letter associated with the Award sticking precariously out of my pocket!
Applause as Dauod receives the letter associated with the World Methodist Peace Award. It was singularly appropriate to present this out on the land which the family has dedicated to peace-making and true ‘shalom.’
Daoud spent some time outlining the history of the family’s association with the land. His grandfather, Daher, when purchasing the land in the early twentieth century, had taken the precaution of registering it in the family’s name. The family, therefore, unlike many other families, has documentary evidence of possession. This has been the subject of constant challenge from the authorities. The family has needed to find finance for legal matters.
The fourth generation of the family prepared a wonderful and melodic celebration in music and traditional dance for the presentation ceremony.
This celebration was steered by these two beautiful young women, who, at times
during their presentation, were moved to tears.
These are some of the fourth generation of Nassars getting ready to perform some traditional Palestinian dances – remarkably similar to Irish dancing, it should be said!
Fr Elias Chacour is a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and a Palestinian Israeli citizen living in Nazareth. He was the recipient of the 1994 World Methodist Peace Award. He contends that all people are children of God and that forgiveness alone brings healing and peace. He has written a number of books on the need for and possibility of reconciliation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Bishop Ivan Abraham is the General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. He is a bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He joined the WMC group for the presentation.
I joined the WMC party for two days, on the second of which was the presentation of the World Methodist Peace Award to the Nassar family. The Peace Award is made on the basis of courage, creativity and consistency. Four generations of the Nassar family have exhibited these qualities in abundance. It is hoped that the profile offered by this Award will be a strength to the Nassar family and will offer them the assurance that they, others like them and Palestinian people as a whole, that they are not forgotten. The ceremony was attended by a variety of community representatives, including two rabbis.
Kristen is a minister of the United Methodist Church, USA, and works at the Methodist Liaison Office in the Tantur Institute near Jerusalem. The Office exists to facilitate relationships for and with Methodists world-wide and to help those coming on pilgrimages to Palestine/Israel. It is a partnership of the World Methodist Council, the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church in Britain http://methodist-liaison.org/about-us
Dauod Nassar, wearing the Peace Award medallion and speaking about what it means to the family to receive this award.
A group of Nassar family members of several generations. The Nassar family is Christian and of the Lutheran tradition. One of the third generation is a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem.
The Revd Angleena Keizer is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain and is on the staff of the Methodist Liaison Office based at the Tantur Institute outside Jerusalem. Angleena often makes the point that her two sons have a Jewish background through their father – she values the Christian inheritance from Judaism, but decries the actions of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people.
On receiving the Award medallion, Daoud Nassar immediately called forward his mother, Meladeh, to receive it, declaring that it was she who has given the family the values and the vision by which they live.