This Family Has Been Basing Their Life On 5 Words Since 1916

I know that the situation between Israelis and Palestinians is complicated, but we need to share the stories of people who are trying something surprising. The Tent of Nations has an unusual plan to build peace: refuse to be enemies. What if we all tried that?

On May 19, 2014, the Israeli government bulldozed the Nassar family's farm, killing 1,500 olive trees and apricots that were almost ready for harvest. You can learn more on Between the Lines (a nonpartisan organization) and see photographs on the Tent of Nations' Facebook page.

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Shane Claiborne: I just returned from the Middle East where I had the chance to visit Israel and Palestine and cross the wall that exists between them, and sometimes when you hear about conflict in the Middle East it's so huge and complicated you can't really wrap your hands around it. But I visited a family there that put a name and a face on the struggle. That family is the Nassar family, and there's countless other families that have stories really similar, but I got to visit the Nassar family and their courage inspired me. So check this out.

Daoud Nassar: Our story's about the place, the people, and the vision here. About the place: we owned this land since 1916 even before. The first registration of the land was in 1916 when my grandfather owned the land, and he came from Bethlehem and used to stay in a cave on the property. He wanted his children to grow up with this land.

Shane Claiborne: And Israeli settlers had started to come in to that area, and as you stand on the Nassar land you can see settlements in every direction. So the Israeli government began to try to take the land from the Nassar family.

Daoud Nassar: So, legally, we are in a good position. It's very difficult for the Israelis to take the land since we are the owners, but prior to that they tried another way to take it throughout physical pressure.

Shane Claiborne: They began to get really harassed to try to maybe be harassed off the land, and settlers dumped giant boulders in the middle of the little road that leads to their house. In fact, when we got there we had to stop our bus and walk almost a mile to their house. And folks uprooted the olive trees that they've had planted on their land, but then there were incredible stories in the face of that, those injustices, stories of reconciliation where a Jewish group heard about the olive trees being uprooted and they came and they planted new olive trees.

Daoud Nassar: Three weeks later, we managed to replant new trees donated by a Jewish organization located in England called European Jews for Justice in Palestine who heard about us and they sponsored us with 250 olive trees and they came and planted them. So this was the sign of solidarity and hope that there are still people who believe in peace with justice.

Shane Claiborne: They started refusing permits, so they refused permits for buildings and refused permits for electricity and water, but the Nassar family, so creative, they began to build their buildings underground. They went off the grid and they run everything on solar and through rainwater recycling. I mean, it's incredible how their imagination has flourished and how their courage has persevered in the midst of this injustice.

Daoud Nassar: And there was one time an offer. We got a phone call from somebody we didn't know who he was, and he asked if you would like to sell your land? The offer was an open check. You write the number, what you would like to get for this place. But, for us, the answer was: the land is the mother and the mother is not for sale.

Shane Claiborne: One of the Nassar family members told us a story. And, incidentally, her name is Amal, which means hope, and Amal told us a story of walking down the road and beginning to build a relationship with one of the Israeli settlers. And as they walked along the same road they got to know each other and Amal invited her to come to her house for dinner. And this woman took her up on the offer, this Israeli settler came to dinner at the Nassar family farm and as she walked in tears just started rolling down her face and she said, "You guys don't even have running water, but we've got pools and hot tubs in the settlement." And there was a little crack in the wall. So it's stories like that that we saw over and over in their courageous struggle and witness.

Daoud Nassar: We refuse to be enemies. Of course, it's is a difficult sentence. It's easy to say it, but it's very difficult to practice underground. We are not asking people to be our friends. Of course, it is our hope to have our neighbors our friends, but we don't want to force anybody. But our motto is we refuse to be enemies. Please don't put me in this circle. I'm not an enemy. I don't hate. Maybe I dislike the way others are acting against me but it doesn't mean I hate.

Shane Claiborne: Dr. Martin Luther King said that we have to expose injustice so that it becomes so uncomfortable that everybody has to do something about it, so let's do something about the conflict in the Middle East. Let's build relationships that cross over the walls of separation and build the sort of world that we all want to live in.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
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Video by The Simple Way. To learn more about recent events, check out the Tent of Nations website, Twitter, or Facebook page.

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