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Pro-Life series: Palestinian Farmers

Located in the hills 9 kilometres southwest of Bethlehem, in the West Bank of Palestine, is a small organic family-owned farm known as Daher’s Vineyard. The farm comprises 100 acres of land filled with various trees that produce olives, grapes, and almonds. The land is also used to grow wheat and other crops. It was purchased in 1916 by Daher Nassar, the grandfather of Daoud Nassar, the man who still owns and lives and works on the farm with his family. Next year they hope to celebrate 100 years of existence on this land. 

In addition to farming the land, the family also runs the Tent of Nations project on the farm. This project, which supports a number of children’s camps, summer work projects, and a variety of women’s programs, seeks to “build bridges between people, and between people and the land.” The varied educational and work programs of this project bring together people not only from Israel/Palestine but from many different countries, all with the goal of developing understanding and respect for each other and witnessing peaceful, non-violent resistance on the ground.

I have never been to Palestine, let alone Daher’s Vineyard, but should I someday be given the opportunity to go there, the Vineyard is one place I would visit. I would enjoy the hospitality of the Nassar family and, having grown up on a farm myself, the opportunity to experience life on a Palestinian farm. But more importantly, I would take a week or even two or three to volunteer as a worker for the Tent of Nations project. To do this would be pro-life.  

You see, for 20 some years, faced with Israeli occupation, this family has been struggling to hold onto the land. Ever since the land was classified as ‘Israel State Land’ in 1991 in an effort to expand the Neve Daniel settlement, the family has lived under the threat of confiscation by Israeli authorities. Despite the fact that 1) the family possesses the original purchase documents and maps of the land and 2) in 1920 their ownership of the land was registered during the time of British Mandate, the Israeli government has declared that the vineyard trees were planted on ‘state land’ and therefore constitute a trespass and should be ‘evacuated’. In May of 2014, in an attempt to put increased pressure on the Nassar family, Israeli bulldozers destroyed more than 1500 apricot and apple trees and smashed many grape plants. In addition, the ever increasing development of Israeli settlements on confiscated lands around this farm further isolate the farm from neighbouring villages in the area. 

Without the support of on-the-ground volunteers, life would slowly be drawn out of this family and this farm. Volunteers working together on the farm support and stand in solidarity with the Nassar family, thereby resisting the oppressive tactics of the Israeli authorities towards these Palestinian Christians. This keeps the Tent of Nations projects going and growing and gives life to the family.

All of life is sacred; the life of the unborn child and the lives of the Nassar family are equally sacred. Each is created by God and each matters to God. To defend both the unborn child and this oppressed family is to stand for the sanctity of all life.

In a response to the destruction of hundreds of the farm’s fruit trees in 2014, the Nassar family created the “Sponsor a Tree” project with the goal of planting some 5,000 grape, almond, olive, apple, and other fruit trees on Daher’s Vineyard during 2015/2016. A tree is a sign of life and hope. (Re)planting trees helps the family not only to re-build, but also provides a way to channel the hurt and pain from this injustice into life-giving actions “in the belief that justice and peace will grow from the bottom up.” I may never visit the Nassar farm, but I can buy them a tree as a symbol of my hope for a better future, a future of abundant life where: “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month” (Rev 22:2a).  

This is the 15th post in our "What Being Pro-Life Means to Me" series! What does being pro-life mean to you? Over this fall, we'll hear various writers respond to that question. Learn more and subscribe for weekly email updates. 

[Image: Flickr user Stew Dean]


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