Today, July 13, we brought the kids of the summer camp to visit the Tent of Nations, a family farm to the south of Bethlehem. The family has been struggling for the last 15 years to hold onto their property in the face of Israeli settlement activity. They were offered a blank check for their property in the ‘90s to make way for an Israeli settlement, but denied, and since then have been fighting the Israelis in court to defend against attempts to appropriate the land. Luckily for them, they have certificates from the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the Jordanian Occupying Forces to prove their ownership. The hill upon which the Tent of Nations sits, overlooking the small Palestinian village of Ni’ilin, is surrounded on all sides by settlements – four in total.
In the morning, the kids packed onto two buses and drove the 25 minutes to the site of the Tent of Nations. We had an impressive number, about 72 kids and 8 volunteers! We got off the buses and hiked up the mountain to ToN, where the buses cannot drive due to roadblocks made by the Israeli army.
It was a very hot day, and the kids were grateful for the shade of an outdoor meeting area where Daher Nassar, one proprietor of the family, explained the story of his family farm and the current situation. He explained how they have faced challenges from settlers, who have uprooted olive trees, and the army, who has attempted to demolish the farm’s structures on multiple occasions.
Afterwards he gave the children a brief tour, and let them rest at the top of the farm’s hill at a meeting area for the volunteers, where they found a drum and guitar. Some played music and danced while others ran around and entertained themselves in other ways.
Next Daher finished the tour, showing the kids the “mountain chapel” where the volunteers and staff worship every Sunday, and the ridge overlooking Ni’ilin and the largest nearby settlement.
All in all it was a great day and our kids learned a lot!