After five days of immersing in the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians (Jews, Muslims, Athiests, & Agnostics) our learning community made our way to the Tent of Nations in the hills of Bethlehem where we met Daoud and his family. They represent a dwindling number of Palestinian Jesus Followers in the West Bank. Below, Jeff Rutledge, an emerging difference maker with the ability to ask important questions at the rigth time, reflects personally and communally on the impact of Daoud’s story.
Tent of Nations in the West Bank operates on a simple idea: we refuse to be enemies. Sitting on a hillside with a stunning view, surrounded by Israeli settlements, this 100 acres of land is farmed by a Palestinian family with documents proving their ownership of it through Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and now Israeli control of the area. This rare combination of paperwork has allowed them to keep posession of the land through an ongoing court battle now nearly 20 years old. Though cut off from resources and in a difficult economic situation, the family will not leave their home, and they won’t give up on reconciling with their neighbors. As Daoud, our guide and the grandson of the original owners, showed us around, he mentioned the three usual reponses to conflict: violence, playing the victim, or running away. He told us that none of these responses are the way to peace, and that the best way forward is another simple idea: start acting differently.
Much more than farmers, Daoud and his family are indeed acting differently. Their tools of creativity and love contrast sharply with the tools of oppression. In the face of demolition orders and uprooted trees, they host summer camps and create art. Cut off from water and electricity, they choose to put on theater productions in view of their fully resourced settler neighbors. Even when faced with armed soldiers emptying his car, David went out of his way to acknowledge the soldiers as friends in front of his scared children.
Is it possible to overcome hatred with love? Daoud and his family make a strong case. As they told us, small steps can make a meaningful difference.
As our day ended with one of these small steps–an impromptu Arab dance party–I was reminded that human beings are remarkably similar everywhere you go. Start acting differently.