Tuesday, 24 July 2007

"As Palestinians we build bridges, not walls."

The Tent of Nations, outside Bethlehem, is a real-life example of how segregation, settlements and de-Palestinisation are affecting the lives of Palestinians who simply want to continue living on the land that has been owned by their family for generations. Bishara has fought a legal battle to be recognised as the legal owner of the land, despite having documentation going back to the Ottoman Empire which proves that he is. He also regularly has to contend with Settlers attempting to encroach on his land - building roads, uprooting Olive trees, trying to found new settlements.

Groups come here from all over the world to work on the land - planting trees, harvesting olives & almonds, clearing land and participating in a way of life that has remained the same for decades. The Tent of Nations also reaches out to local young people offering summer camp programmes that are both fun and educational.

We were allocated the task of clearing a couple of fields of rocks, piling them up into piles or onto walls. Sometimes when other people have done this, settlers have attacked them verbally or physically. There's a Catch 22 situation for Palestinians trying to retain their land - if they try and build on it, the government demands the buildings come down; if they leave fields to lie fallow, the government says it has been abandoned and requisitions it. The work we were doing means that the land will soon be suitable for playing football.

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