Greetings from the Tent of Nations. Almost the year 2016 is coming to an end; it was a difficult year for our region, with more downs than ups.
We would like to share with you the latest news from the Tent of Nations, the situation on the ground, our concerns, but also to share with you hopeful stories, how we are trying to move forward, despite of all the challenges we are facing.
The absence of peace talks was used to create more facts on the ground. More land is being confiscated for new settlements and/or expanding the existing ones. The wall is continuing to be built on Palestinian land, separating Palestinians from their own communities and from their own land. The confiscation of land and the building of new settlements and the wall will make it more difficult for the Palestinians to establish their own State.
Also, in our area the situation is getting more difficult. As you know, the main access road to the farm is closed since 2001. Visitor groups have to stop their buses close to the road block and then walk to the farm.
Late May 2016, the settlers started with the construction of a new religious school close to where the road is blocked. This school is going to isolate us more and more, and the main road to the farm, after they finish building the school, may be closed completely. If this would be the case, we should go legally trying to prevent that from happening. We will keep you posted and will inform you about any new developments regarding the road. At the same time, we would like to have more people coming to visit the Tent of Nations, because the international presence at the Tent of Nations is making a big difference.
We try to be optimistic and hope for the best; at the same time, we have to be realistic and be prepared for the worst.
With the end of this year, we complete 25 years of a legal battle with the Israeli authorities with more than $180,000 spent on legal expenses since 1991. But the positive outcome is that we are still on the farm, and we did not lose any part of the land. Today, and after 25 years, we will continue this struggle for justice without giving up, will never give up, and we will keep working hard on different levels to prevent our farm from being confiscated. Although we are going through many challenges, the candle of hope for justice is still burning inside this dark tunnel, and it will lead us out one day.
For the years 2016 and 2017, our aim is to continue developing the farm in terms of agriculture in order to make the farm self-sustainable, especially after the continuation of building the wall that will disconnect us from Bethlehem. Since the struggle is about land, the more positive facts that we can create on the ground will make it more difficult to confiscate the farm. By developing agriculture, we want to encourage more farmers to do the same, especially if they start to see that agriculture could become a source of income. Our hope is to make the farm financially self-supportive through the selling of its produce. We believe that this is the healthy way to grow.
Between January and March 2016, and with the support and help of many of our friends in different countries, we were able to plant 3,000 new grape trees (a new Vineyard). In August 2016, we started cultivating a new area using big bulldozers to level the ground and to build terraces. We finished the first part, and now we are clearing stones and rocks from the fields, building supporting walls and will be cultivating the ground a couple of times preparing it for new planting of trees. We made a space for 5,000 olive and other trees. Please pray for rain
The almond, the fig and the grape harvests went well this year, but we had a bad olive harvest. We are glad to see the fruits of many hands that came and worked together; the farm is producing almonds, figs, apricots and apples. Out of the fruits, we are making jam that is now available to sell in our farm shop. For the first time after 80 years, the farm started to produce wine in bigger quantities. We had the first wine tasting in May during our 100 years anniversary celebration. We hope that by selling the produce, the farm will be able to support itself by itself. That is also why we plant more trees.
Special thanks to all people who sponsored and/or helped in planting trees on the farm this year. Thanks also to all who came and helped during the harvest months.
The solar power system for generating electricity was expanded in February of 2015, and we have now 34 solar panels that produce 7-8 kw electricity. We have 25 storage batteries which were installed in 2009 for the night use. Those batteries are not enough to fully meet our night use needs, however, especially if we have many people staying on the farm. We will get more batteries to increase the storage capacity, but are waiting until we can replace the old ones. We are still hoping to install two small wind turbines for generating electricity to help charging the batteries in the night hours and also during winter time. The Tent of Nations is 950m (3,000 feet) above sea level – more than enough wind.
Each year, we have been increasing our rain water collection capacity in order to have sufficient supplies of water and to be able to develop agriculture and to support the Tent of Nations activities and programs on the farm.
Waste water treatment unit:
By the end of December, we will finish the second and final phases of recycling the waste water. The system will treat the bad bacteria in the waste water so that the recycled water can used for irrigation.
Composting and Bio-gas Fuel:
We are still in the process of building four new compost toilets. Compost toilets are saving a lot of water. We hope by the end of this year that the biogas fuel unit will be installed and will produce cooking gas out of the compost.
We started the project this year; the system is for raising fish. The fish tank is connected through a pipe to three open tanks filled with stones and sand. When the water is flowing from the tank into the three open ones, it gets clean from the stones and sand and the fish waste stays there and the water continues to flow into the water tank and from there it is pumped back as clean water to the fish tank. With this system, we can raise fish to eat and grow vegetables in the open tanks.
From the heavy wind, the green house was destroyed. We started fixing it, and it will be ready very soon for planting vegetables in the winter time.
The work on developing a better infrastructure for animals is a continuous project since last year. We stopped many times because of demolition orders, but we continue in small steps. The animal farm project is important for educational purposes during the children’s summer camps by bringing nature into the life of children; it is also needed for self-sufficiency. We want to grow our own food and eat from what the farm is producing. We hope by March 2017 to finish this project.
We started this project last year. The plan is to develop a place for children who come to the children’s summer camps to learn about the different trees and plants. Most of our children are coming from the cities and do not know that much about plants and trees. Through learning by doing, we are trying to introduce that to the children. The first phase is done, and we will continue with the second phase.
TENT OF NATIONS EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS
100 Years Celebrations:
In May 2016, we celebrated 100 years of existence on the farm with 60 people attending the five-day celebration. More than half lived for the whole time on the farm, and we had 150 people on the final day, the day of celebration.
The five days included different workshops on conflict resolution, arts and crafts, biblical studies, sharing of stories and volunteering on the farm. Eight nationalities attended, and all participants had a wonderful time together. The whole idea was to bring people together, to celebrate, to share our stories, to learn and to inspire each other. Many said that it would be nice to make it as a fixed program every year. From May 1-4, 2017, we will have the 101 years celebration; we would love you to be part of this special event. For more information, please check our website.
Bent Al Reef Women’s Project:
The women’s empowerment project in the village started offering activities and programs for this year beginning in September, and it will run until June (a full school year). We want to enable women who have children or siblings at school to use a couple of the morning hours to be part of those activities to learn, to become empowered and also to be active positively in their own society. The Program and activities are there to serve and encourage women to learn new skills, discover their talents and interests, develop their characters, socialize, visit and interact and exchange thoughts and ideas with local and international women. A Palestinian Recipe Book was produced by the women and is for sale through Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA). See their website at: www.fotonna.org.
This year we had 54 volunteers who stayed and helped on the farm between three weeks and three months and 226 volunteers who helped between one day and one week. Volunteers are a big support for the Tent of Nations. A special thank you for all who came and helped during 2016; thank you for your support and solidarity. It is important to say that since we started to have an international presence of volunteers (since 2002), attacks from settlers have been stopped; international presence at the Tent of Nations has made a big difference. We hope to double the number of volunteers for the year 2017. If you have an interest to come and help, go to our website: www. tentofnations.org, fill out the form and send it to us. We would love to hear from you. There will be some options for scholarships in 2017; please keep an eye out for this information.
Come and See, Go and Tell:
Many visitors came to see the Tent of Nations this year to hear its story and challenges but also to learn about struggle and hope. We had 6,043 visitors from all over the world this year. Visitors are a big encouragement to us and are a big sign of solidarity. Please encourage more people to come and visit the Tent of Nations; we hope to double the number of visitors in 2017.
TENT OF NATIONS EVENTS AND PROGRAMS FOR 2017:
- Tree Planting Campaign from January until the 30th of March – Our goal is to plant 5,000 olive and other trees. We will be doing a campaign, asking people to sponsor and give trees as a Christmas gift.
- Tree Planting Camp from March 20-30.
- Celebrations 101 from May 1-4.
- Apricot/Apple and Cave Renovation Camp from June 19-30.
- Children’s Summer Camp from July 10-22.
- Almond and fruit harvest camp from July 31 until August 11.
- Grapes and Fig harvest camp from August 28 until September 8.
- Olive harvest camp from October 23 until November 3.
We would love to see you participating in one or more of our programs and activities. For more information, please check our website.
The message of peace and love that started from Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago should continue to shine out from here. Our journey for justice will continue with faith, love and hope, carrying our cross, refusing to be enemies, transforming our pain into a positive energy that is able to change hearts, lives and build a better future. Have a wonderful Christmas celebration and a blessed New Year 2017.
Blessings and Salaam,
Tent of Nations – People Building Bridges