Tent of nations seeks to bring people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace.
That’s what the Tent of Nation’s website says. I was sceptical at first, to be honest. Sounded like some sort of a hippie place where people have utopian ideas about peace, freedom and love. And to be honest again, after visiting the place, I still think it’s a place of somehow utopian ideas. However, this also means that it is a place where people still believe in a future for everyone instead of just giving up.
The founding family of Tent of Nations is exemplary for problems and difficulties Palestinians in the area of Bethlehem face every day. Daher explains to us how his grandfather purchased the land on the hilltop above Nahhalin (OCHA map) in 1916. More than 20 years ago, Israel designated the area as state property. Daher and his brothers are still fighting this decision in court today. Furthermore, the family is under threat of surrounding Israeli settlements like Gush Etzion and Betar Illit. Incidents whereby settlers destroy infrastructure, olive trees have repeatedly occurred. As if this was not enough, the Israeli Civil Administration has issued several demolition orders for constructions such as tents, water tanks and huts. And of course there is the usual lack of service by the Israeli government: no water, no electricity, no maintenance of roads, no disposal method and so on… The story is never ending and the last thing Daher showed us was the road leading to Hebron which is blocked by huge rocks and only accessible on foot.
How does the family deal with their hardship? They founded Tent of Nations in 2000 (video here). It is a peace project that strives for a better future and peaceful coexistence. Most important about this project, I think, is that everyone is welcome. The family welcomes Palestinian kids, international volunteers as well as Israeli people. They work the land together with their visitors, support the empowerment of women, offer summer programmes for children and many other things. There are attempts to circumvent the different demolitions orders by building underground (some natural caves already existed on the land) and there is even a new underground water tank. Compost toilets as well as a very careful and economical use of water ensure that the land stays fruitful and keeps its natural beauty. The place itself sends out a message of peace through wall paintings and mosaics (see gallery). Daher tells us that some time ago a blank cheque to sell the land was offered to them; to sell for a price of their own choice. ”However,” he adds “this land is like my mother and I would never sell my mother.”
One day later we are called back to Tent of Nations to witness how a new gate was put up overnight where the road has already been blocked with rocks. There is not much hope that the road to Hebron will be open again soon.