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Liberation seeds

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 12.02.2012:

Rain

It is raining heavily. Sabah al-Ward (morning of the flower), says the bus driver to the passengers who hide themselves under their raincoats. The greeting sounds a little sarcastic but not too much because when the rain falls, people here are basically in a good mood. Rain keeps the land and the plants alive.

During a morning in January, I am joining a Dutch group in heavy rain to the Tent of Nations, an ecological project of a Palestinian landowning family who despite all kinds of pressure cling to their land which is surrounded by settlements. Daoud Nasser, their spokesperson, hosts us in a large cave as the army does not allow him to build on his land. He is a farmer but also a strong speaker and storyteller with excellent English.

The Tent of Nations brings local and international people together, as the name suggests, in order to conduct a diversity of educational and ecological projects in which Palestinian children and youth are involved. Hospitality and care are his weapons of resistance. Despite the uncertainty in which he lives, he plants olive trees that will bear fruit only after a few years, saying, in a way: I will overcome all your pressures by keeping faith in our land and people.

One story he tells strikes me especially. Together with his wife he encourages children to make photos of the natural surroundings and to bring out their feelings while looking at and discussing the pictures afterwards, in the cave. Asking about one girl’s desires in life, she responded that her desire was to die. Why that so, Daoud asked, taken aback. So as to be in heaven together with her father who had passed away some time ago. Shocked, the Nasser family continued to encourage her and keep hope so that she would feel better afterwards.

What is remarkable is that these seeding activities take place in a condition of prolonged siege. Besides settlers from the surrounding settlements damaging trees and creating an intimidating atmosphere together with the Israeli army, the Nasser family conducts a legal struggle now stretching over decades in which lawyers have even visited Istanbul (to enquire about the lands’ deeds during the Turkish time) and London (British mandate time).

The huge legal fees do not discourage the family to continue, on principle. What is this struggle? It is not a survival struggle, but a demonstration that humanity and spirit ultimately must win. A liberation struggle conducted through a daily practice.

Daoud contrasts this struggle with three other options: blind violence/hate, resignation to occupation, and emigration. In the tradition of nonviolence, he tells the Israelis that he refuses to be enemies, even while they consistently try to uproot his family and their land.

Back at home the electricity falls out, which frequently happens when it is raining. With four candles around him, Tamer uses the light of his mobile to do his homework. He is learning about Al-Quds, Jerusalem; about the gates, the wall built by Turkish Suleyman, and further in history the Jebusites who founded the city.

He tells me and mama that the book says that Jerusalem is waiting for liberation. “Who will liberate Al-Quds?” I ask him. “Guess who will liberate it,” he says. I don’t know. “I”, he responds. His dream is to be a superhero like Batman. Next day I show him the tulip seeds on the balcony.

Mary, too, is happy with the rain. For the first time we plant some olive trees, apricots, apples, and peach on part of the family land.

January 2012

Bethlehem

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