I am presenting some photos from a recent outing to a hilltop near Bethlehem, the Nassar farm near the Palestinian village of Nahalin in Area C (Israel controlled) of the West Bank. While I talked to the farm family about their Tent of Nations project and the threats to their land and livelihood since 1991, I did not talk to their neighbours the Israeli [illegal] settlers, nor to the Israeli military or police. Because this is not balanced journalism, I am simply making a photo montage.
Here are two photos of rocks. The square rock is a concrete block that is a portable road block; Israeli officials use them to set up impromptu checkpoints, for example. This rock joins dumped rocks and dirt that prevent access to, or from, the farm road, which used to join the road to Bethlehem. The second rock is a natural rock bearing the family’s motto, which expresses the wish for peace with their Israeli settler neighbours. Rock mottoes nearby are in other languages because the farm has several projects on the go with support from volunteers around the world.
Here is a dog house. The Nassars say they have received a demolition order to tear down the dog house because they did not have a building permit. For a dog house. Their farm is in Area C, controlled by Israel. For generations the family lived in caves on this land; they need a permit to expand a cave. And yes, they say, authorities come regularly to check their land for non-permit building. The second picture is a pillar celebrating all religions, inside the family’s cave. Meanwhile the settlers in the five surrounding settlements build and build; the settlements are on surrounding hills but too distant for my camera phone to capture. But I try: see photos three (road into farm) and four (distant settlement).
Here is a tank on a truck. I failed to ask the farmer if the truck held water or chemicals or petrol. But I saw this truck tank while we were being shown the water cisterns. Water cisterns do not make interesting photos. The family use rain-gathered water because their water supply has been cut off. The second photo shows solar panels on the roof of their current house. The family use their own electricity because their connection to the grid has been cut.
Here is a fig tree and an almond tree. In 2002, the Nassars say, Israelis uprooted 250 olive trees; in 2014, Israelis destroyed in one night hundreds of fruit trees. The family have received no compensation for this loss but have replanted. If they did not replant, they explain, the land would be confiscated. Usage of the land is a proof of ownership.
This Christian Palestinian farm family explain that they have the deeds to the property dating back to their grandfather’s purchase, and receipts for taxes that they have paid to three different administrations: Ottoman, British Mandate and Jordanian. They would like to register their land with Israel but their claim to the property has been held up in court since 1991, despite a Supreme Court ruling in their favour in 2007 giving permission for them to register their land.
Here are Amal Nassar, her brother Dahel Nassar and their mother Meladeh Nassar, with some guy who does not appear to be one of the many international farm volunteers. The Nassars are determined to keep alive their father’s dream by staying on the property. See how they smile in the face of ongoing harrassment from their settler neighbours and Israeli authorities. No photo can show the mountainous size of their dignity and spirit.