The Tent of Nations: Palestine arts delegation report 5
At the beginning of our trip, we visited the Tent of Nations, a sustainable community and educational farm 30 minutes away from Bethlehem. Daoud Nassar, the land owner and director gave us a very moving introduction to his families land, vision, and life under occupation. The Tent of Nations organizes truth and reconciliation, tree planting, summer camps, and international youth exchange programs in order to bring people from various cultures together, to help protect Palestinian land from being confiscated.
During his presentation, Daoud said that even though we are visitors and will only be in Palestine for a couple of weeks, we will get to know the land more than most Palestinians do who have lived here their entire lives. Living under occupation means the majority of Palestinians don’t have access to their own land and holy sites.
After Daoud said this, I kept repeating his words over and over again in my head. How can this be? How unfair. How can I, a tourist have more rights and freedoms in a land I have no attachment to, over the indigenous community who have worked and lived on this land for thousands of years?
This past weekend, we briefly stopped at a beach in Haifa on our way to Jenin. While I was putting my feet in the Mediterranean Sea, I was reminded of how much I feel at home when I am near the ocean. I grew up and have spent most of my life living in Venice Beach, California. I then began to think about what it means to have a home, and where I feel most at home.
As a young person who has had the privilege of traveling, the concept of home comes up a lot. A home can be described in many ways. It can be a physical structure, a piece of land, where your family lives, where you have community, where your partner is, where you work, where you feel the most loved, etc.
Traveling in Palestine has helped me understand the importance of having family, culture, and a home, and how easy it is to take these beautiful parts of life for granted. After witnessing occupation, it doesn’t take much to realize the amount of strength and resilience Palestinians have and need to have, to be constantly protecting their homes from being demolished, their families from being separated, and their culture from being erased.
I can’t imagine being kicked out of my home and made a refugee in my own land. I can’t imagine the place that holds most of my memories being taken away.
What the war profiteers, settlers, and racist policy makers do not understand, is that the Palestinian people have a love affair with their homeland. It is a love affair that has been going on for centuries, and grows stronger everyday. Like Daoud said, “Our land is our mother, and our mother is not for sale.”
Governments, corporations, and their wars can take people’s lands away, but they can’t take love out of people’s hearts, and this is something the Palestinian people prove everyday.
Dara Wells-Hajjar is an activist-artist and co-leader of FOR’s 2012 Arts of Resistance delegation to Palestine. Her full bio can be found here.