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Tent of Nations brothers speak out about Jan. 28 attack

The Nassar family slogan is ‘We refuse to be enemies.’ Family members remain committed to Christian principles

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Daoud Nassar, one of two brothers attacked at the Tent of Nations farm on Jan. 28, spoke out about the attack this week. (Photo by Douglas Dicks)

LOUISVILLE — Mission co-worker Douglas Dicks traveled to the Tent of Nations on a cold, wet, foggy morning this week for a press conference and meeting with faith leaders and other dignitaries hosted by the Nassar family. Brothers Daoud and Daher Nassar were hospitalized after a vicious attack at their farm on Jan. 28.

The Tent of Nations is a 106-year-old organic farm in the hills southwest of Bethlehem owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian Lutheran family.

Their slogan, painted on a rock found at the entrance to the farm, says simply, “We refuse to be enemies.”

The rock at the entrance to the Tent of Nations names the principle on which the farm operates. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

The family’s dedication to peace was tested on Jan. 28, when the brothers were attacked by fellow Palestinians from a nearby village and spent several days in the hospital in critical condition. They were attacked with iron bars and large sticks by 15 masked individuals. Although the physical scars are fading, the emotional ones will take longer to heal. Yet they remain committed to the principles on which the farm operates.

There was also damage to structures of the property. Several olive trees were destroyed.

At this week’s meeting were representatives from the nearby Arab village of Nahalin. The community’s mayor addressed the crowd, condemning the attacks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also called to express his concern.

Daoud Nassar said they were grateful for the gesture but are still hoping for the arrest of the perpetrators. “We need not just words, but deeds,” he said.

He also issued a call for local supporters to commit to spending nights on the farm so that they have a security presence.

Amal Nassar, a 2018 International Peacemaker, looks at some of the olive trees destroyed during the attack at the Tent of Nations. (Photo by Douglas Dicks)

Amal Nassar, Daoud and Daher’s sister and an International Peacemaker in 2018, worked with volunteers to clean up the property and feed the farm animals while her brothers recovered. Dicks  helped her feed the animals.

Jonathan Kuttab, executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), a Palestinian liberation theology organization, also visited the brothers after the attack. He talked about the visit in a FOSNA newsletter and during a phone conversation. Kuttab splits his time between the U.S. and Israel-Palestine. He is also an attorney and has represented the Nassar family in the Israeli courts.

The Nassar family holds a legitimate deed to the land, which is surrounded on all sides by Israeli settlements. The family has been fighting in the High Court of Israel to be recognized as legal owners of the property for more than 30 years.

Jonathan Kuttab (Photo courtesy of Friends of Sabeel North America)

“The Nassars must defend themselves on several fronts: from attacks by Israeli settlers, from attacks by Palestinian thugs, and from attacks in the court as they wage a legal battle to hang on to land coveted by the settlers,” Kuttab said in a recent communication to supporters. “In each battle, the existence of concerned outsiders who are willing to intervene, both morally and bodily, to support their ‘sumud’ (or ‘steadfastness’) is of the utmost importance.”

Kuttab, who is currently in Israel-Palestine, said he was able to bring the Nassar family some good news from his law office. He said an Israeli judge has recently issued a ruling dismissing a specific action brought to the court by the Jewish settlers who were demanding that the Military Government and its Civil Administration speed up the process of evicting the Nassars.

“Apparently, the settlers were unhappy that the Nassars had yet to be evicted from what they considered ‘state land,’ and they were eager to see the land confiscated from the family and turned over to them,” Kuttab said. “The court held that the Civil Administration did in fact declare the land as state land, but it recognized that the Nassars had objected to this and presented their title documents before the court. The court said that the Nassars did seem to have proper title, which was still being investigated by the authorities, and therefore there was no room for the case brought by the settlers. So, the case was dismissed. This is a small victory in the continuing legal battle over the Tent of Nations, but it is certainly a cause for celebration.”

Daher Nassar was one of the two brothers attacked at the Tent of Nations farm on Jan. 28. (Photo by Douglas Dicks)

But the celebration was short-lived, Kuttab said.

He said Daher Nassar had just received a newly posted “Stop Work Order” from the Israeli Civil Administration, requiring the family to tear down a 30-square-meter shed they began building in 2019, a shed that has since been partially destroyed. The order said the structure was illegal because it was built without a license. The order, issued Feb. 8, gave the family one week to completely destroy the structure or file a new objection.

“So, the legal battle continues,” said Kuttab. “My office will prepare yet another legal challenge, so we have very little time to enjoy our ‘victory.”

They ask for continued prayers.

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