(5 august 2014)
Plump, juicy grapes seemed like an oxymoron to the situation I found myself in. But oxymorons were becoming a strange way of life in Palestine.
I found myself thinking deeply about grapes as I stood on the hill and popped another in my mouth. It’s sweetness engulfed my tastebuds and my dry throat welcomed the surprising refreshment.
Grapes have no enemy. They don’t care if the hand that tends to them is brown or white, Palestinian or Israeli. They soak up all the water and sunlight shared with them, and if they’ve been sufficiently cared for, reward us with their fruit.
Plump, juicy grapes.
Dauod stood overlooking the land that belonged to his family; the land of his fathers. His great grandfather, without perhaps any idea of the consequence of his actions, registered the land he owned with the British during their mandate rule in Palestine. And he continued to register it with each following leadership.
And so when Israeli forces tried to expel Daoud and his family from their land by declaring 90% of it “State Land,” land that would be used for a neighboring Israeli Settlement called Gush Etzion, they technically couldn’t. Daoud and his family had the papers to prove it was theirs.
Twenty three years and almost $200,000 in legal expenses later, Daoud and his family are still fighting to stay on their land.
He picked a grape off the vine and continued walking, leading our group to a former wine-press converted into a small theater where we could get a better view of the surrounding hills.
Five settlements, with Israeli flags billowing in the wind, encircled us. Each area shared the same history; these hilltops too had once belonged to Palestinians, Daoud’s neighbors.
They didn’t have the foresight to register their land with the ever changing occupying forces, and therefore didn’t have the evidence needed to prevent the seizure of their land.
Daoud and his family face threats every day. We couldn’t drive on the normal road to get to his house. His neighbors from the settlements had attacked a car parked outside of the road leading to their home only a few weeks before.
IDF soldiers placed a roadblock on the street that leads to their home years earlier to make vehicle access difficult, and more recently set up a military checkpoint to further the intimidation.
Settlers from the surrounding areas have attacked Daoud and his family, desecrated their land, uprooted their trees. All illegally; all without legal recourse.
“We are committed to non-violence. We refuse to be enemies, and that takes active, non-violent action.” Daoud looked at us, at the hill behind him, and back to us.
“The Israeli government refused to give us access to water and electricity. So we got creative. We set up solar panels to create energy and have built water collection tanks around our property and have more than enough water to get through the year.” He continued.
Dauod spent more time explaining all the good that his family and their supporters had been able to accomplish on their land under such adverse circumstances than the source of those circumstances. No calls for pity, hatred or violence. Daoud loves Jesus. Jesus’ call to love your enemies isn’t a quaint recommendation for Daoud; it’s his way of life.
A life which is in a way like a vineyard. It doesn’t have control over who or what tends to it. An awful situation can still provide what is necessary for it to grow. Our lives, even in the midst of bitter circumstances, can produce fruit.
Oxymoron fruit. Plump, juicy grapes.
(located on the Nassar property; “He shall judge between the nations; and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore.”)
If you’d like to learn more about the Nassar family and their organization Tent of Nations, please visit their website here.
A recent BBC story about Daoud and his brother Daher is located here.