This is Part II of my article about the Holy Land Trust.

Click here to read Part I.

I entered the office of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem with apprehension. A “nonviolent empowerment” movement sounds beautiful in theory, but I had no idea what the practical steps towards peace look like amidst such an old, complex conflict as that which exists in the Holy Land.

I followed my friend through the office to a meeting room covered with bright rugs and walls holding banners and posters promoting peace. We crept into the room, trying not to disturb the meeting taking place between Sami Awad, Holy Land Trust director, and a group of visiting pastors.

The History

Sami’s presence in front of the group was calm and reassuring. He talked with the humble wisdom of someone who’s experienced years of trials but is quietly determined. Sami explained the recent history of the conflict and its effect on his family, beginning with his grandmother being displaced from her land in the forties.

As he explained, I was struck by the details of the injustices endured by Sami’s family, but I was more struck by Sami’s attitude. Sami did not share any words of anger or resentment—instead, he shared a message of hope in a more peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis.

The beautiful view from Daher’s home.

Sami’s beliefs helped create the organization—or movement—of Holy Land Trust in 1998. The vision and work of the organization bring delegations of people from around the world to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to learn more about what it means to resist injustice peacefully.

Lucky for me, I had stumbled upon one of these days of building international witness.

Visiting Daher

After the meeting, I followed Sami as he escorted a group of Swiss visitors out to visit Daher, a West Bank resident. Holy Land Trust often hosts visitors as a part of building international understanding about the situation in the West Bank and the Holy Land in general.

We piled into a van that drove out of Bethlehem and into the countryside. Our van climbed to the top of a hill, overlooking a quiet and stunning valley. This was the home of Daher—it has been his family’s home for generations.

Daher at his home in the West Bank.

Daher’s home is simple, surrounded by a greenhouse, cultivated fields, olive trees, small furnished caves and classrooms that host youth summer programs. We followed Daher around his land as he pointed out each feature with pride—the view, the caves, the new electricity. Daher’s open demeanor and beautiful home charmed me instantly. But underneath the placid surface, Daher’s home is the place of much controversy.

Disputed Land

Years ago, Israeli settlers began the process of seizing Daher’s land from him—and he is certainly not alone. Many Palestinians in the area have lost their homes to settlers in the fierce struggle for land rights in the Holy Land. Despite the efforts of many Israeli citizens to promote peace and move forward from past injustices, some are continuing to seize land and homes from Palestinians.

I had trouble swallowing the stark injustice of his tale. Daher has been struggling for months and months in court in order to prove that his family has the rights to his land. He has been fortunate to receive international and local support for his case and presented his story diligently in a local court until the case was moved to the high court in Jerusalem, a place where Daher cannot enter without a permit.

No permit has been issued for Daher.

His lawyer continues to represent him in Jerusalem, and Holy Land Trust continues to share his story with others. The goal is not to incite them and create more anger, but instead to draw support in resisting further injustice and healing old wounds.

Sami in one of the caves on Daher’s land.

Be At Peace

The group and I left Holy Land Trust with a deep concern and respect for Daher and deeper understanding of the conflict at present, but that’s just the tip of what the organization does. They are actively involved in local media programs, nonviolence training, leadership development and travel and encounter programs—an opportunity for anyone to spend a summer living with a Palestinian family in the West Bank to better understand what’s going on.

Anyone is welcome to support the work of Holy Land Trust, or to visit the work of Holy Land Trust, but what’s the most important thing we can do?

“Live in peace,” my undercover Israeli friend told me. “The barrier between Israel and Palestine isn’t some problem unique to this region—it’s a manifestation of the state of humanity.”

Even amongst controversy, Holy Land Trust is dedicated to peacefully resisting injustice.

Live in peace. It’s a much more involved request than donating money or even making a visit. Even the employees of Holy Land Trust participate in daily meditation and weekly relaxation sessions to be at peace themselves. (I participated in one of these office relaxation and sharing sessions during my visit—it’s how everyone should start their day!)

The process of peace and reconciliation may involve fair policy and public apologies, but the real healing takes place on the individual level. It takes place by following the examples of patience, compassion and forgiveness given to us by Jesus.

Above all, achieving true peace—not just the absence of violence—takes individuals who are compassionate, forgiving and gracious themselves to lead the movement. I am grateful for Holy Land Trust and the people there who remind me how powerful of a force peace truly is.

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Next Steps
    • -Interested in visiting the Holy Land? Consider participating in a Summer Encounter Program.
    • Be at peace. Work to confront adversity with a spirit of compassion in place of anger in some small way this week.
    • Learn more about Holy Land Trust. Consider making a contribution to their work.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

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Comments

  1. Jessica said... 

    Reply

    December 18th, 2011 at 4:23 pm  

    Laura, as someone who gets to read and write about peace studies for my courses every week, I really appreciate your “on the ground” articles! Thanks for so clearly describing what peace-building really looks like. It’s a long process, and it often comes down to individual stories like Daher’s, but as you said, the influence of those who act out of a place of inner peace can be powerful. (Have you read about Palestinian Christian Jean Zaru?) I’m blessed to hear about Holy Land Trust’s commitment, creativity, and authenticity.
    May the Prince of Peace make himself evident this Christmas – and show us how to follow him!

  2. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    December 21st, 2011 at 6:07 pm  

    Hey Jessica! Thanks for your thoughts. The thing that inspired me most about this group was their disposition towards the issue. They definitely lead by example!

    Also, I just looker up Jean Zaru right now–thanks for the recommendation.

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