Spring Newsletter 2008

February 17, 2008

in Newsletters

Spring Newsletter 2008

Dear friends,

With our best greetings from Bethlehem we would like to inform you about the latest news concerning the general situation in the Bethlehem area and the updates of the Tent of Nations.

In the South and South West of Bethlehem the construction of the Apartheid wall is still going on, separating in the near future five villages as well as Daher’s Vineyard completely from the rest of the West Bank. Nowadays it is only possible to reach the land driving on road 60 from Nashash / Alkhader where there is a checkpoint with a metal gate. From time to time Israeli military close the gate and people have to wait sometimes for hours at the checkpoint. Later when the tunnel under road 60 is finished, it will be the only access road which will connect Bethlehem with Daher’s Vineyard, Tent of Nations and 5 Palestinian villages to the west. This tunnel will be controlled by Israeli soldiers.

The settlements around Bethlehem especially surrounding the farm are expanding constantly. New what is called outposts which consists of some containers are to find on different hills of the West Bank. These containers will be replaced by permanent houses.

Land process:

After the Military Committee having informed us that the land can be registered and recognized by the Israeli Government, we had to survey the land again and we already applied for that but we are still waiting for a reaction and an answer. This process is going to cost us extra $15,000. Any financial support for the legal costs of the land case will be very much appreciated.

Agricultural development on the farm:

During the months of January to March 2008 we planted with the help of groups and individuals, both locals and internationals more than 600 trees. These trees have to be watered twice a week starting in the month of May. However during this passed winter and spring it didn’t rain much, so that we will face water problems this summer because of lack of water. We are planning to construct a new cistern in order to collect more rain water next winter. A new cistern will cost $10,000. Any financial help for the cistern will be appreciated.

This summer we had to buy water at a higher price. More costs are added for the transportation of water to the farm with a tank. We are willing to buy a tank which has a capacity of 3 cubic meter of water which can be hooked to the tractor so that we can make the transportation costs for water less. This tank is necessary and is needed for the farm, it costs $ 3500.

In the greenhouse, tomatoes and cucumbers are growing. We are planning to plant a new vegetable garden in order to be self supporter and independent.

Our intention is to cultivate new fields every year and expand the cultivated land in order to protect it from the danger of confiscation and make it green too by planting yearly new trees. With a $10 you can sponsor one tree.

The animal farm is also growing, we have hens, goats, rabbits, pigeons, a donkey and a horse. It is very nice to see the pigeons flying in circles over the farm as a symbol of peace and justice.

Infrastructure:

The kitchen in the building where the volunteers are living is almost ready as well as the new terrace beside the kitchen. This space will be used for eating, meetings and as a place for discussions, talks, and lectures. Since we are expecting more volunteers in the next months, additional room is already prepared and will be used for the new coming volunteers.

At the roof of the volunteer’s building, “Al-karma House”, we fixed the gutter leading the rain water from the roof of the house into the cistern.

We built sitting places from stones in the area which will be used for the big gathering in summer during the children camp.

We improved the camping site.

We made some renovations to Bishara’s cave, install wires and internet connection cables. This cave will be used as an office, however it still needs more improvements.

In order to get an additional room, we continue working in a big recently opened cave. This new cave should be finished during the work camp in June.

Friends of Tent of Nations North America sponsored a new Diesel generator. Thanks so much for our friends in the US for sponsoring this generator and for their solidarity with us.

Upcoming Projects:

Green Helms” from Germany will help us to install solar panels. An expert will come and visit the farm end of May and we hope to start developing this very important project very soon. We are also planning to have a wind mill to use the wind for getting electricity. Through these projects, we want to open ways for the young generation to concentrate on alternative energy and be environmental friendly. Our future plan is to treat the waste water and use it for irrigation.

A small gift shop, where products from the land can be sold for guests, and a cafeteria are in planning.

In the last years we planted many trees and we are expecting in the near future a good harvest. It will be important to find markets for the products (olive oil, almonds, apples, apricots, raisins….

Our vision is to establish a vocational training center and start with a simple school for agriculture ‘sustainable farming school’. People from the nearby villages will be invited to Daher’s Vinyard for the agricultural training in order to motivate them to cultivate more land, plant it, bring life to it and also working on finding markets locally and internationally for the products.

We need to buy a used digger to cultivate the land, make new terraces, move big rocks and stones out of the fields and use it also for other agricultural and constructional work on the farm. When the wall is finished and the area is closed, we cannot get a machine there without a permit. It is important to be prepared for this situation and have our own machines instead of renting. A used Digger will cost around $15,000.

Trips:

I was in Germany from the 29th of February until the 13th of March 2008. I had the chance to visit and give lectures to different congregations, schools and the “Catholic Academy” in Münster.

Visits / Activities:

As every year we had the tree planting campaign in winter time and two camps for planting trees.

During the time from January till April 2008 many visitors (groups and individuals) came to visit, learn more about our situation and help with our work at the Tent of Nations. We had visitors from these following countries:

  • 253 persons from the USA
  • 224 persons from Germany
  • 39 persons from England
  • 50 persons from Holland
  • 80 persons from Palestine
  • 65 persons from Israel (Israeli Peace activists)
  • 5 persons from France
  • 2 persons from Switzerland
  • 2 persons from Australia

We were also visited by the Family members of our volunteers who stayed for some time at the land.

One woman from the peace activist group, who visited the land in April, invited her friend from the nearby settlement to come and visit the Tent of Nations. The woman from the settlement told that she is living since nine years in the nearby settlement but she never knew that there are also Palestinians living in the surrounding areas. She thought that all the area there is empty and can be used for settlement expansion. This woman was very astonished to see how we are living without running water and electricity, it was a very moving situation for this woman and I believe she went back home with many questions in her mind.

Bent Al-Reef Educational Center in Nahalin:

The Woman project is continuing its work in the village. The women network in the village is increasing and the woman participants are demanding as usual more courses and activities to meet with their expectations.

Starting this year we did 5 Computer Courses: Three Excel Courses with the participation of 36 women and two Microsoft Word Courses with 26 woman participants. These courses were given by Jihan.

We also offred 2 English Courses: One course was given by Regula Kaufman who volunteered to teach English for the last 18 months. Another English Course was given by the EAPPI group of Bethlehem. We also had one art workshop besides lectures about special women topics.

Again this year we had the Women’s Week which took place at the Village Council from the 14th until the 19th of April. This Week of Activities was organized for the second time by Jihan, who is directing this woman center. We were also glad to see Ilse Brugger from Basel, Switzerland who came again this year to help with the women project and the Women’s Week. The theme of this yearly week of activities was “How women with their different roles can shape their society”.

Throughout this week, women from the village heard lectures from active women who are playing very important roles in shaping the Palestinian society. They also had the advantage to meet with international women from Poland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland and to hear about the women roles in the European society. In addition, they had the chance to know more about many sensitive women topics, health and social issues.

Many thanks go to all the volunteers and people who are helping and supporting this project. Special thanks also go to Ilse Brugger for her continuous support for this very important project. The women who are taking these courses and attending these classes are not able to share any costs, so financial support is needed for this project. With $200 you can sponsor a women for 3 months courses.

Youth activities:

In January and March 08 an international youth exchange program took place, where our Palestinian youngsters met together with young people from Germany, England and the United States.

Volunteers:

  • The two brothers Evert and Theo left us end of April to Holland after their voluntary work at the land for one month and a half.
  • Dominik and Joseph from Germany, who are doing their civil service at the Tent of Nations started their voluntary work on September 2007 for 13 months.
  • Sarah from Germany worked for one and a half months and left in April.
  • Max and Philipp from Germany volunteered during April for two weeks.
  • Steve and Nigel from England, who left us in February, stayed for 2 months and helped a lot with the practical work on the farm.

We want to thank all the volunteers for their continuous help and support. Without their help we won’t be able to achieve a lot. We wish them all the best for their future plans.

Upcoming Volunteers:

  • Sebastian from Germany will volunteer for five months.
  • Casey from USA will volunteer for one and a half month. (She is participating in the Summer Encounter program organized by the Holy Land Trust).
  • Mark from Ireland will volunteer for one and a half month (He is participating in the Summer Encounter program organized by Holy Land Trust).
  • In July 2008 Markus from Germany will volunteer for three months.
  • Two young men from Germany will be coming in September 2008 to do their civil service for 13 months.

Finally, we would like to express our sincerest thanks to all who are supporting this project practically, ideally or financially. We would be glad to count furthermore on your support and help. Tent of Nations is a place for all nations to come together and build bridges of understanding and peace.

Thank you for your encouragement and support.

Sincerely yours,

Daoud Nassar

Tent of Nations Director


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