Wednesday April 13 : Tent of Nations - Al-Arroub

Monday 12 March 2012
popularity : 12%

Today, we are taking our two Danes, Yeppe and Esben with us. Indeed, they are interested in our programme. Sandra has suggested we should go and meet Daher Nassar, a Christian Palestinian who fights for his right to keep his farm and farmland located in the hills south-west of Bethlehem, in the Palestinian West Bank, close to the little Palestinian village of Nahalin, right in the middle of the huge block of illegal settlements called Gush Etzion. Sandra tol dus that the lands have belonged to the Nassar family for generations, but the Israeli authorities work at taking them over to build more settlements there. Daher and his family’s case was brought to Military Court 12 years ago. At present, it has reached Supreme Court but it is still not solved.

(détail carte)

On the ground, life is far from easy. “The Nassars”, Sandra tells us, “are among these Palestinians who refuse to respond to the violence they are subjected to with even more violence. They have set up the Tent of Nationsproject, another example of Beautiful Resistance… Internationals come here to help Daher: they work with him on his land, bring some little improvements to the buildings, help in the kitchen, cafeteria and gift shop, do some office work or some gardening and landscaping or look after the animals, plant trees, harvest fruit… You will see: there is a large tent where they can sleep at night. And in the evening, we make a big fire, we have a bite and we sing all together, Palestinians and internationals. It is a really intense experience...” Yummy! Another great encounter ahead!

The taxis that picked us up at the entrance of Al-Arroub camp drop us in the countryside… in the middle of nowhere. Indeed, rubble and junk bars the little road we were following. It was brought there by the Israeli authorities. Consequently, Daher can’t use his car anymore. This is one of the many vexations the Israelis subject him and his family to, Sandra explains. Laurie asks uncritically: what for? – “By making life difficult for him and his family”, Sandra answers, “they try to make them break down, to discourage them from staying and living here… Because they are in the way of the Israeli settlement projects.”

We need about quarter of an hour to get to the Nassars’ property, 100 acres of land. The countryside around could be spendid, but the settlers were there. They have uprooted hundreds of olive and fruit trees, stripped the surrounding hills bare in order to build their concrete settlements. Electric poles line up on lands that are still unbuilt but will soon be.

The policy of settlement expansion is still going on, despite what the Israeli the autorities tell foreign medias. The property of the Nassar family is now trapped in the middle of five settlements that stretch over the tops of the neighbouring hills. Little by little they cut Bethlehem off from Hebron… [1]

While we are walking towards Daher’s farm, Sandra explains the kind of dirty tricks the settlers inflict on the Palestinians who live “too close”to the settlements: “They raid in group on the villages, preferably on Fridays (which is our Sundays) and break everything on their way; they aim at the inhabitants with their rifles and terrorize them - it is not unusual that they fire at them. Or they burn their crops, or prevent the farmers from going and gathering their olives. There is also this sewage story: a settlement was for a while disconnected from the national sewage system. The settlers didn’t hesitate for a second: they ensured that their sewage poured forth into the Palestinian village situated below. Just imagine the catastrophe: the pestilential smell, the number of people who became ill!” As Margot puts it, they were back into the 18th century...

At the end of the path, we come in front of a locked up gate. A quite pathetic protection: it seems we could put it down with a single shoulder push. Sandra rings the bell and a few minutes later, Daher appears. He is a short man, in his sixties-seventies (or fifties, it is really difficult to say). He is wearing an old red pullover and a woolen bonnet (despite the heat! But in Jerusalem, Daoud was also wearing a pullover all the time!). Daher greets Sandra joyfully and welcomes us warmly. He speaks English. His eyes parkle with pleasure. He invites us to follow him up to his "home", and uses the opportunity to drive his old tractor back. Anne-Claire and Marie-Gaëlle don’t resist the temptation and get on the vehicle with him.

His “home” is not so much a farmhouse as a few shelters made with bits and pieces. The Israeli soldiers were there too. But Daher’s place is a little paradise: hens, goats, two horses grazing peacefully, cultivated land everywhere and so many trees (olives, grape vines, almonds and fruit)… How beautiful the West Bank is... !

A Haven of Peace

Daher tells us about his land and family while showing us around. His family, the Nassars, is one of the last Christian Palestinian families still living in these hills situated nine km on the south-west of Bethlehem. Their ancestor, called Daher Nassar too, bought these lands in 1916, during the Ottoman empire, as the certificate of ownership and the documents owned by the Nasser family prove it. He tells us about it all:

Daher se présente
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“My name is Daher. I live here. I was born here and have lived here all my life. All around my land you can see are many settlements, four on this side (Gush Etzion, …) and this is my land in the middle. From 1991 we have been in court for this land. A long time ago, there was a Turkish government here, for 400 years and I have papers from the Turkish (saying this is my land). After the British (who stayed here for 30 years), we had the Jordans. I have documents from them too. We went to Court in 1991 and haven’t finished yet… We have volunteers here who help me planting trees, people from Germany who stay here for one year because they don’t go to the army and do their civil service here … I will show you where my family lived for many years… Every summer we have camping here, about 80 children coming here and I have 25 volunteers from different countries helping me.”

So, his family owns documents signed by the Ottomans, the English, the Jordans and even the Israelis after 1967. Yet, despite that, in 1991, the Nassars happened to know that Israel had declared their property "state lands", which means they are considered as building plots for future settlements and under the constant threat of confiscation. The family have fought a legal battle to keep hold the land since then: the lawyer showed the documents that vouch for the farm belonging to the family but the legal battle is not yet over.

Since 1991, the Israeli authorities and the settlers have consistantly been harrassing Daher’s family, putting pressure on them, making their life hell: they are regularly raided by settlers who uproot their trees and threaten the family with rifles, they are sent demolition orders for the buildings that are still standing [2], the farm is not connected to any water or electricity supply network, etc. The avowed aim of all this is to make them leave, give up their lands. The fact Palestinian people live here is a problem for the Israelis as they break the continuity between the different settlements of the Gush Etzion Block. But the official excuse is that “they are (the Israelis say) a threat for the security of the local settlers”. We glance at Laurie to check her reaction. It is really a pity she doesn’t know English. She would notice that Daher and Sandra speak with one voice.

Since the 1993-1994 Oslo Agreements->http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accords_d%27Oslo], the whole area has been under the control of Israel (zone C) and the Israeli government forces the inhabitants to ask for a permit (which they never get anyway) before they can bring any extension to the permanent infrastructures they still own - only settlers are given permission to build in this area… More important: the separating wall Israel is going on building will soon cut this piece of land from the rest of Palestine.

Yet, Sandra says, the Nassar famiy doesn’t believe in violence as an answer to violence. Bishara Nasser, our host’s father, had a dream: to create on his lands a centre in which people working at building peace and the co-existence of all the people living on earth could meet. Daher’s father’s idea was to have people come from the outside so they can see by themselves what is going on in this place and not satisfy themselves with what the media show. The other idea was to channel the people’s frustrations into something positive and constructive. That is how "Tent of Nations" was born in 2000, a project that not only aims at supporting the good wills so that they succeed in preserving the Nassers’ lands but also at making people from different countries come together and build “living bridges”of trust and hope. [3]

As Sandra told us, volunteers come from all over the world to work on Daher’s educational and environmental farm. Amongst the different projects, there two types of work: energy/irrigation, planting trees.

The first one consist in working at maintaining and consolidating the existing infrastructures and systems in order to guarantee water supply for the kitchen and the correct irrigation of the cultures, as well as in setting up environment-friendly supply systems (harvesting solar energy, recycling wastewater. In a word, help the farm to be autonomous and self-sufficient despite all the restrictions the Israeli authorities subject it to. Daher shows us an underground cistern that volunteers have built for him :

Le problème de l’eau
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“We don’t have running water nor electricity. To drink and to water the plants, we have had to create our own system. They don’t allow us to have drinking water and give us no permit to build a house. This white stone tiling you see here collects the rain water so it runs into the cistern. Because we collect the water from the rain. When we don’t have enough water anymore, we buy some from the (Palestinian) village.”

Daher and his guests can only rely on the rainwater they collect to cook, get washed, drink, water the animals and the plants. At present there are four cisterns but they barely meet the needs in the summer, when the sun dries up everything (as it does today) and when the kids and volunteers come for the summer camps.

We come closer to the only permanent structure that is still standing after the soldiers’ and settlers’ different passages. It is covered with a mosaic fresco, a master-piece children made together during one of the summer camps. Daher comments it for us: “This is a verse from the Bible (“ Be all together and God bless this home”). Here you see, Palestinians and Israelis speaking together. And here, this is a mosque. The artist made the drawing and the little children filled it with tiles I collected from rubbish… So you make something out of rubbish... This is my house, I sleep in there. It is an old building, built before 1967. The Israelis tried to demolish the roof and they have already given me nine orders of demolition for it.”

Les fresques des enfants
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So, this is another part of the project of Tent of nations: organising summer camps for children: activity-leaders show them that means exist to create a better future for everybody. “We are convinced”, Daher says, “that today’s children have an important part to play for tomorrow”. And Daher gives examples of the types of activities organised on his farm for children, teens and adults too: in the past, they have helped solidarity groups to organize tree-plantings, church groups to design worship experiences, youth groups to plan campouts, activist groups to hold lectures, tourists to arrange hikes… Programs are designed to teach various life lessons, he says, including peaceful ways to relieve frustration and feelings, the importance of faith, family, and friendship along with peace, love, and community, the importance of relying on one another to demonstrate that tasks get done properly and more efficiently through joined effort.

“In 2008, for example, we had a Music festival here with volunteers from different countries: they worked with children from Bethlehem and neighbouring villages and refugee camps. They made musical instrument from recycled material. Their motto was: "We manage to do something from nothing, because we do it together". And indeed, they used only salvaged materials, just like with the fresco”.

The Israeli soldiers can come here any time and destroy Daher’s house. Never mind, he has a spare solution, he tells us, and he takes us to one of the caves his family has made in the garden: the Cave of Peace. We go down a few stairs en enter it : inside, there is a long ovale table, some chairs and books.

La grotte de la paix
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“In this cave, I can also put up children who take part in the summer camps... As you can see on the walls, there are different writings of the word “Peace” in different languages … One Israeli teacher came one year and helped me to make a summer school here… What I want is people to make contact with each other. How can we make peace? By speaking with each other. Israeli children and Palestinian children from Jerusalem came here, played together and they were very happy together...”

We follow our guide outside up to a rock in which there is another "cave". Daher steps aside to let us go in: a great circular room, with benches carved into the rock. On a column, there are paintings which he details for us:

La grotte familiale
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“My family started to live here in the cave in 1916... In the winter, it is warm in here and in the summer, it is cool. Now volunteers sleep in here. It is my grand-father who dug the cave. We used to cook here and that’s the hole for the smoke to go outside… This is a picture that children painted during their summer school: Muslims, Christians and Jewish together. . (On the column) Here, you have portrait of my grand-father, my uncle and my father. My grand father’s name is Daher and my name is Daher too. And my fathers’s name is Bishara and now my son’s name is Bishara too... And this is my uncle. He lived all his life in this cave.”

Our host takes us now back into the garden, where we meet two American volunteers working at watering the trees which have just been planted. It is quite hot now outside and it makes them sweat! They wave at us and we wave back from far: what Daher tell us is so interesting that we don’t want to miss a thing :

Daher salue les bénévoles
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“Tree-planting is another of our projects. From January to March, we try to plant thousands of olive and fruit trees, not only because they make the landscape green again but also because they enable us to increase our productivity. The autumn olive harvest is also a great opportunity to have internationals come here.”

He makes a few steps then turns round: “Cultivating the land is a way to protect ourselves against their being confiscated by the Israeli authorities, which would otherwise consider that they are abandoned, in other words that they are nobody’s property and, consequently, theirs.” We nod in approval but we can’t help thinking that planting a tree is also symbolically meaningful. It is a way to reaffirm that there is still hope that one day peace and justice will reign here. It is an act of solidarity and a very efficient way to make people meet each other. Palestinians, Israelis and internationals of all origins work together at something that is bigger than themselves. And we remember the documents we saw in the Cave of Peace : each visitor can sponsor a tree, the only thing to do is give 10 dollars…

Sandra indicates the place where at night the volunteers sit together around the camp-fire and sing songs from all over the world… Yes, we can imagine the great atmosphere of these evening gatherings and all the volunteers sharing notes of hope under the beautifully starry sky...

A bit further we spot an assemblage of canvas sheets sewned together and spread over an incredible bric-à-brac. We enter one of the two tents: inside, there are camp beds for the volunteers, no real comfort… Daher makes a big smile:

Tentes de récup’
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“You know when you walk on the street, you see many rubbish. I collect all the rubbish, bring it here and volunteers help me to make something out of it. It is good: from rubbish, you make something… This has now become two tents: about 20 people can come and sleep in each of them.” Sandra comments: “These are the tents he has been fighting to keep for many years, because the Israelis said it is forbidden to have them”. Daher confirms : “They have given me many demolishion orders, even though it is a not a building. And now I’m in court about this.”

It is stuffy in the tent but how great the atmosphere must be when it is full of volunteers! There aren’t many people at the moment, but within two months, volunteers will come from all over the world. Jeppe and Esben, our two Danish friends, look as if they had found what they were looking for: it is done! They will only take the time to go and fetch their stuff in Al-Arroub camp and then, they will come back and work here on Dahe’s farm! We applaud heartily: what a great idea! If only we didn’t have to go back to Belgium in four days... !

But a noise is intriguing us. It is made by huge machines which are moving off at a distance and which trouble the quietness of the place.

Behind a row of trees, we make out a hill that looks as if it had just been planed down: bulldozers buzz about a set of buildings that seems to come straight out of Legoland: impersonal and ultra-modern. This must be one of the settlements surrounding Daher’s farm. He tells us a bit about them.

Les colonies
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“There you have Bazar, Roch Tzurin, Derech Ha’avot and Neve Daniel settlements, and there is another one on the other side. Five settlements in all... There, you can see that the Israelis have put iron poles for the electricity. Now nobody can work anymore on these lands because the Israelis have taken them all… In Neve Daniel, they have started buiding new houses... My family has been here for 100 years, on my grand-father’s land and I’m not allowed to build one single house. But the Israelis come and in one month they have tens of houses built…”

We observe the comings and goings of the huge construction vehicles. Seeing the way they move about, it is easy to understand why settlements literally sprout out in occupied Palestine... Very efficient!

Le bruit des bulldozers
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Has Daher already met people from the settlements around? Are they all violent and agressives like in other places in the West Bank (Hebron, Nablus,...)? He tells us that one day, an Israeli visitor asked him if one of his friends, living in Neve Daniel settlement could come and visit him. Of course she could. Daher welcomed this lady who didn’t have the slightest idea of the destitution in which he and his family were living :

Daher et son envahissant voisinage
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“The woman came here and I told her I didn’t have electricity here. She said: Oh, we all have light in the settlement. Later I said: I don’t have water. She said to me: Oh! I have a swimming pool. I told her: you see: between here and there, we have two different lives. Then I invited her husband to come here and visit me… It is good that people have contacts. I love all the people, because God loves all the people. I don’t like people to make problems. I wanted to invite him here to speak about peace... People from an Israeli organisation have also come and visit me very often… One family of settlers comes and visit me all the time. We are neigbours, I want to speak with my neighbours.”

We are stunned: so much generosity, such open-mindedness and hospitality while in Europe, we are pestered with the hackneyed cliche according to which "all the Palestinians want to throw all the Jews into the sea"... ! Heinous propaganda, which has promoted this lie so well for forty years that people have ended up taking it for a fact.

Compared to the Israeli settlements that ruin the landscape over the long term, Daher’s small shelters look quite pathetic to us. Behind a fence, there are a few hens and a young goat. What is left of a caravan (or van?) serves as a henhouse. “It is considered illegal by the Israeli authorities,” Daher says, “since it is a“ permanent extension to existing buildings.”” Ridicule never did anyone any harm… If only this could change… We follow Daher around the henhouse: “This fence is not allowed, and this fence there is not allowed either. I put the birds inside, because they are not allowed”.

Permis de vivre ?
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Anne-Claire summarizes bitterly : It’s clear that whatever you do, it is not allowed… Daher goes on: “Yes, everything is forbidden! Even walking is not allowed... I really want to open a place for everyone here. If Israelis come, I’ll say welcome! to them. Anyone who wants to come here is welcome, because I want to build peace for everyone. Peace is necessary. The problem is with the government… People come here, and everything is OK with them. But the government closed the road... I told them many times to open the road because I want to carry things from far away. It has been closed for more than 10 years”.

Yes, we saw the rubble and junk barring the little road when we arrived. Anne-Claire grimaces: They don’t like you because you resist. Daher concludes: “They don’t give permits because they don’t like (Palestinian) people to live here. But I was born here. I have been here all my life, and my family, for many years, from 1916. I want to stay here. My children will stay here after me…”

Building a house and planting trees... These are other forms of a "Beautiful Resistance" that complete superbly the resistance though culture which the first Taayoush group discovered in 2009. But Daher prefers using the term "Love Resistance":

Planter, c’est résister
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“I want to make good... Some times ago, settlers came at night and cut 270 trees. After that, I planted 100… When they cut one tree, I’ll plant ten of them. Ana makabil bil mahabi: I resist through love. I’m different: if somebody makes problem with me, I will tell him I love him all the same. Because God loves everybody.” … Well, this is a lesson for us all…

Construire des ponts pour bâtir la paix
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We have almost finished our tour of Daher’s property. We find ourselves now on a theatre site, a place some volunteers have built the antique way: a small amphitheatre with steps as seats and a half-moon stage set against a background of Palestinian hills. “Many people come here from different countries and speak about peace”, Daher tells us. “Some time ago, ten teachers came from England and they made a theatre activity and we played Romeo and Juliet…” Shakespeare’s words must have had a peculiar meaning here…

An inscription on a large round stone plate nearby summarizes the Nassars’philosophy: "Tent of Nations - People building bridges": “In this place people, Palestinians and Israelis, come together and speak together about subjects like violence and non-violence”, Daher says before he reminds us of what their project aims at in the long-term: preparing young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bringing values of understanding and tolerance into their life experience and teaching them the true belonging to their country. “Tent of Nations” , he says, “is devoted to address cultural conflicts around the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by facilitating positive encounters between young people from different cultures”… Peace and Love: that is something our young idealistic and artless souls are craving…

Daher takes us now back to the other side of his land. But before he lets us go down the hill and leave him, he points at the village situated in the valley, just under one of the five Israeli settlements that surround the Nassars’property: it is the Palestinian village of Nahalin. That is where his family (his wife and children) are at the moment. Indeed, there have been some settlers’ attacks recently and Daher wants to know that everybody is safe and well in Nahalin.

We look at the village from the top of Daher’s hill. It is so different from the Israeli settlements: nestled in the bottom of the valley, curled up on itself, in harmony with the landscape. In a word: it is where it belongs to. But it looks quite cramped and about to be swallowed by thered roofs of the still extending settlement that overlooks it (just as a reminder: Israeli settlements are ALWAYs built on the tops of the hills.) “Waouw! We could think we are at the Belgian coast”, Natalia comments as she watches the high-concrete buildings. Strange comparison, Natalia...

Daher tells us that, because of the difficulty they encounter and because of the restrictions Israel imposes on the Palestinians each time they need or want to go somewhere, the women of Nahalin are like trapped in the village. They can’t leave the place to go and study or have a job – the traditional Palestinian society gives them little opportunity to anyway, whatever their age. Daher explains how "Tent of Nations" has succeeded in opening doors for these women:

“There is a project now, called Bent Al-Reef Educational Center for Women, that aims at empowering the women and increasing their access to and control over technology. For a few years, we have been able to offer them free computer and English classes, and other workshops and activities (such as traditional embroidery). Indeed, we are convinced that it is important Palestinian women played their part in the building up of tomorrow’s civil society. Anyway, it is a good thing that women meet each other, help and support each other.”

L’espoir de Daher
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Our visit is over but Daher still has a lot to do. Some gentlemen wearing suits and ties and carrying attaché-cases are waiting for him. We thank him and promise him that we will tell the people around us about his project. He gives us a few folders, which we accept readily. We say good bye and he smiles like only the Palestinians can do: with his eyes, his whole face, his whole body. His last words are: “I hope that one day, this will change. Inside of me, I have hope that one day things will change.”

We are now back on the rocky route. We look at the lanscape in a different way than when we were coming up to meet Daher… They really massacred the landscape… This land, which is already almost arid “by birth”… We don’t understand: if the Jewish settlers love it to the point of wanting to liveon it, shouldn’t they take care of it? Shouldn’t they plant trees rather than uproot them? Shouldn’t they make plnats and flowers grow rather than upturn the soil and make it become bare? We feel there is a real ecological disaster going on here, in addition to the human disaster. And we canet help wondering if this way of doing things is not going to backfire, turn against everyone in the end...

We are still in the middle of our thoughts when we hear a horn honking aggressively behind us. An ATV car literally pushes us out of the road and go hurtling past us. Inside, there are two men, one of whom gives us the finger… Settlers : Israeli plate on the car and the absolute certainty to be in the right… OK… We get back in our two taxis, which are waiting for us on the other side of the rubble and junk that bar the road. Where did this ATV actually come from? Where was it heading to? To one of the settlements for sure, since Daher’s farm is cut off from the rest of the world.

Last moments in Al-Arroub

We are back home... for the last time. Tonight we will have a farewell evening. We want it to be festive! But before we start preparing it, we go for our last meeting at the EJE centre, where Samaher has brought some children together for a game activity. We leave Anne-Claire, Tanguy and Margot do the shopping for tonight while we take care of the kids.

They welcome us warmly: in our honor, and to our surprise, the children have rehearsed a Dabkeh and start dancing for us! This time, we don’t try to join in but content ourselves with admiring their performance.

Dabkeh
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After this really touching show, we go upstairs to play some more games with the children we already met a few days ago.

We all agree on one thing: they can make quite a noise but we will miss all of them!

Ambiance ludique
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Back at home, everybody buzzes about setting the table, decorating the house, cooking or packing up since we won’t have much time tomorrow morning to tidy and clean the flat. We have a quick supper as “our” young Palestinians have already arrived, all of them eager to spend the last evening together with us.

In the kitchen, Margot and Caroline busy themselves with cooking pancakes while Bassam explains to Marie-Gaëlle how to make REAL coffee (Palestinian way.) Abed has prepared our favourite red or yellow sweet jelly and Majd pops some corn. He looks sad and eventually spills the beans. He has a really heavy weight on his heart, his girl-friend’s family don’t want him: too poor... Abed is a little out of sorts too. Will we be able to make our Belgian friends understand their problems? None of them has been thrown out of their family for one year when they were 16 nor have they had to work in henhouses at night before going to school, their clothes still full of feathers and consequently be the laughing stock of their school fellows, which is one of the many things Abed has had to endure.

Caroline, Marie-Gaëlle and Margot do their best to cheer the two guys up… This ends up in collective hugs, photo shoots and fits of laughters. Good thing!

Since we are about to leave them and go back to our little comfortable life, while they will stay and go on with their everyday routine, the least we can do is not to make anyone here burst into tears. It would be harder work for them than for us to hold them back.

In the sitting/living/eating-room, Tanguy talks seriously with Hashem, Wassim listens to them, Anne-Claire is swoping pull-over and T-shirt with Tareq, Mahmoud and baby-Paul play on the game console Hassan has brought, our three musicians Yeppe, Esben and the handsome Nour strum their guitars while Natalia smiles at Baha and Mohammed.

And then, Laurie takes the floor. With the help of the team, she has written a text in which she says something nice to each of the young Palestinians with whom we have shared so many good things during the ten days we stayed in Al-Arroub. Anne-Claire translates into English for them.

Then everyone gets a little present: chocolate for the boys of the camp, drawings from Abed, old coins from Mahmoud, traditional accessories (keffiehs and scarves of various colours, jewels for the girls). We disguise and roar with laughters when Majd does an impression of Ghadaffi (it is crazy how well he can imitate the way he keeps his head high, the way he looks at people, the way he speaks and plays with his keffieh, not to mention the well-known "zenga-zenga" he used in one of his speeches!).

The Belgians then group together in a choir and sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” while Sarah and Sabrina (Bassam’s young and gorgious wife) try to convince their baby-boys that Margot’s pancakes are delicious. Sébastien takes picturess...

Everybody laughs and smiles but don’t be mistaken: tears are close. Tomorrow, we are leaving to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, then to Tel Aviv and Belgium. Indeed, WE can leave the camp, travel, go back home and come back here one day if we feel like it. This is not the case with our the boys...

When the time has come to say goodbye, we, the other stronger sex, decide that all our Palestinian friends will give and get some hugs, no matter what their culture and habits allow or forbid – are they kidding us ? None of them turns them down. First round, second one and back again. We want to look in each other’s eyes again, feel each other again, smile at each other. The boys tell us that we are Palestinians now because we now smile with all our body and soul, not only with our teeth anymore.

Anne-Claire, who talked about it with him before, makes Abed promise to work at making the girls of the camp take part in more activities and in the futures encounters with internationals. She tells him that only boys like him (on this subject, Hashem is still very much a macho, too bad!) can make things change. He promises that he will try to. The farewells have gone on but now, it is done. The boys have all left and gone back home. We feel a huge void inside. Whether we will ever see them again?...

See more photos taken at the "Tent of Nations"

See more photos of the Belgian-Palestinian in Al-Arroub

Read on about the trip


[1These setllements belong to the important Gush Etzion bloc, on the south of Jerusalem and on the west of Bethlehem. See map.

[2The simple structures under threat include two roofs, three tents, animal sheds, an underground water cistern, and a simple shelter serving as a toilet.

[3For more information on "Tent of Nations", in addition to the site of the project, see among other things Daoud Nassar’s (Daher’s brother) presentation of the project and the short report by Peace Network, the short film shot by the Alternative Information Center, , and Daoud Nassar’s speech at the conference "We refuse to be enemies" that took place in the USA in November 2009.