Giving Up Slowly

Note: We had a wonderful meeting this morning with Sabeel. Unfortunately, the Rev. Naim Ateek is traveling. However, Jonathan Kuttab, a member of the board and a well-respected human rights' lawyer, addressed us quite eloquently.

"What are the Jabers made of?" I asked Rich Meyer, from Christian Peacemaker Teams, as he guided us through Hebron yesterday. The Jaber family have been harrassed, threatened, and endangered at the hands of the most extreme settlers near their home in the Beqa'a Valley. Homes have been torched, family members attacked, all in an effort to frighten them off their land. I tried to figure out what it was that kept them from throwing in the towel. Rich replied, "I think it's called 'giving up as slowly as possible.'"

I heard the echoes of these words as I walked the grounds of Daoud Nassar's family land near the village of Nahallin. One look at the hilltops around reveals how tentative his hold on this piece of rocky ground is. In every direction, Israeli settlements loom. Fingers of these settlements reach out along the crest of the hill to connect with the next one. Daoud is surrounded.

Settlers have come to his land many times. They have tried to build a road onto it. They have threatened Daoud's mother at gunpoint. They have uprooted 250 olive trees. And when that failed, they tried to bribe him. "It's a blank check. Name your price. We'll help you leave."

The legal battle has been a protracted one as well, now nearly fifteen years old. Daoud has the right documents, dating from 1916 when his grandfather registered the land under the Ottoman Empire. He has provided a series of surveys, from as long ago as the British Mandate and as recently as 2001. The court has ruled them all insufficient and has required him to hire an Israeli surveyor at a cost of $70,000. And on it goes.

In an effort to defray the prohibitive legal costs, as well as to raise awareness about the issue of land confiscation in general, Daoud has established "The Tent of Nations." Internationals come to this hilltop to lend a hand (we planted a few onions), learn the issues, raise awareness, and take part in a variety of programs.

I am deeply impressed by Daoud's courage. I hope it's not a case of "giving up as slowly as possible." Daoud has succeeded thus far where so many others have failed. Our bus driver jokes that the Palestinian state will have to be established on this 100 acres. Looking around the dust of further settlement all around us, it's hard to imagine otherwise. If you want further information, you can visit the Tent of Nations webpage. Daoud's pastor, the Rev Dr. Mitri Raheb, also wrote about the situation in his book I Am a Palestinian Christian (in the chapter entitled "Daher's Vineyard.")