The First Church in Albany. Rooted in Jesus Christ and committed to the city and the people of Albany, New York.
Pastor John Paarlberg will be in Palestine and Israel January 11-24, participating in a study tour, “Popular Resistance and Liberation Theology,” sponsored by Friends of Sabeel, a Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through non-violence and education.
As he is able, he will be sending us some updates of his study tour.
Today we visited Tent of Nations, a 100 acre farm near Bethlehem. A Palestinian Christian family, the Nassars, has owned the property for 100 years. They have the documentation (from the time of the Ottoman Empire) proving their ownership, yet Israel continues to try to confiscate the land.
In 1991 Israel declared it to be state land (even though it is not in Israel, but in the West Bank). The Nassars challenged the ruling in court, a process that has now gone on for 25 years. Last year the court referred the case to military authorities. The Nassars were forced to re-register their land and have it surveyed again (the 13th time) at their expense.
Israeli settlements surround the farm and periodically some of the settlers have vandalized the farm destroying property and uprooting trees. Two years ago the Israeli military destroyed 1,500 trees.
The farm is in area C (under Israeli military control) in the West Bank and the Israeli authorities have prohibited the Nassars from building any additional structures on their property. The Israeli military has also blocked the main roads to the farm, so the usual 10 minute trip to Bethlehem is now lengthened to 30 or more. Israel uses a variety of methods to make it difficult for Palestinians to tend their land.
All of this is illegal under international law, but Israel seems undeterred. Thankfully, so are the Nassars. They have not only challenged these unjust actions in court, but have also made their farm a center for peace, among other things providing a summer camp for children from Bethlehem and from some of the area refugee camps.
I am amazed at their steadfast resistance to injustice and their deep commitment to non-violence.
As our own small act of resistance we planted grape vines at the farm. Said Douod Nassar, "When we plant a tree we believe in the future."