Monday, 31 May 2010

Thanks Everybody!

Hi All,

We're not out of the woods yet, but your thoughts and prayers have made it to Palestine. Here's a message from Daoud:

Dear friends of Tent of Nations all over the world,

Thank you so much for your prayers and for the advocacy letters you sent on behalf of us to your government, Embassies and to the Israeli officials and government. It is wonderful to see how many people in the world are committed to work for justice and do care about us and about the Tent of Nations.

Since Thursday, the day we received the nine demolishing orders and until today, Monday the 31st of May 10.00 pm, we are still under pressure hoping that the Army won’t come and destroy our structures. Sunday and Monday were two long days for us, but thank God no destruction or dismantling of any developments or renovations took place.

It is wonderful to see how many people came to visit us yesterday and today to show their solidarity with us. We pray and hope that things will change and the sun of justice will rise again.

Our lawyer appealed to stop the demolishing orders, he sent the Appeal by Fax to the Israeli military authority and got the confirmation that it was received. Our situation will continue to be critical and our structures will continue to be under threat of destruction until we receive a paper from the military authority says that our Appeal is being accepted.

The letters of advocacy that were sent to political officials in many countries and the fast reaction of our attorney who immediately challenged the demolition order in the Israeli court are the two strategies we are following to challenge and stop the demolishing orders. With your prayers and support, we are sure that we will succeed.

It is a big support for the Tent of Nations to have so many friends all over the world who are standing against this injustice. Please remember that Faith, love and hope are keeping our spirit high and are giving us the strength to continue this just struggle and we will never give up.

Please forward my E-mail to all your friends.

Blessings and Salaam,


Thank you for your continued support.
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Sunday, 30 May 2010

What I really care about....

Dear Friends,

I'm sharing an e-mail with you I received on Thursday May 27th around 5PM. It's a message from Daoud Nassar and the Tent of Nations. As I write this the farm is experiencing great trauma. Please read and keep the farm and the family in your thoughts and prayers.

Dear Friends of Tent of Nations all over the world,

Today at 2.00 pm in the afternoon, 2 officers form the Israeli Civil Administration guarded by Israeli soldiers came to our farm and gave us NINE demolishing orders for nine ( structures) we built in the last years without a building permit from the Israeli Military Authority. The demolishing orders are for: tents, animals shelters, metal roof in front of both old houses, the restrooms (Shelters) , a water cistern, a metal container and 2 underground renovated cave structures. One officer was writing the demolishing orders and the other was taking pictures with two cameras, Israeli soldiers were following them everywhere and pointing their guns on us.

The demolishing orders were written in Hebrew and I refused to sign receiving them. We have 3 days only to react against those demolishing orders. The timing for delivering the demolishing orders was plant properly and purposely on Thursday, in order to make it difficult for us to try to stop those orders by the Israeli court within 3 days, because of the Jewish weekend (Friday and Saturday). The idea is to make it impossible for us to act quickly. I contacted our Lawyer and he will write an opposition and send it to the military court on Sunday morning. We hope to get a paper from the court through our Lawyer on Sunday morning to stop the demolishing orders.

We would like to ask you to be prepared and alert for actions, if anything might happen. We will keep you updated and will guide you for actions but please forward this E-mail to your friends.

PLEASE be prepared for actions… Thank you for all your solidarity and support.

They are trying to destroy our spirit, but we are determined to resist and overcome the Evil with GOOD and justice will prevail.

Blessings and Salaam,


I'll keep everyone updated as I receive information. I've included photos of what is potentially being destroyed. Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to travel to Wales! First we visited the Museum of Welsh Life. On the grounds are over forty reconstructed historic cottages/ structures from all over Wales. The oldest cottage was originally built in the 1500s. You can also enjoy Bara bread with butter hot from the bakery circa 1900 (that's the bakery, not the bread). The interpretation and preservation the Museum is doing is incredible. This national park ranger was impressed.

After the Museum we were off to Cardiff Castle. It was a really pretty castle, and our guide was fantastic! The mote surrounding the castle is one of the oldest in wales, though the actual castle as it is seen today was mostly constructed in the nineteenth century. The eccentric architect/ designer of the castle was devoted to the mid evil era and parrots. Those influences make for an interesting design scheme. It also helps that his client, the royalty of wales, had enough money to throw in the mote (they didn't but they could have).

It was of course raining on Saturday. After touring the castle and climbing the mote tower we warmed ourselves at the Old Library with tea. Then it was back to Oxford and back to the books.

Enjoy this pictures!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Two weeks to Change my Life

As some of you know, I spent the last two weeks of my break from studies in Palestine. I was working on a peace farm, Tent of Nations, outside of Bethlehem. The farm offers a variety of programs for the local Palestinian community, including a summer camp for children and training and workshops for the women of the local Palestinian village, that offer alternatives to the violent occupation. I learned so much there about myself and the greater Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. I would like to share some of what I learned with you, reader.

I should begin by saying I met so many wonderful people, both Israeli and Palestinian. Also, Palestine is not recognized as a state. I was technically in the West Bank, known internationally as disputed territory. Israel no longer controls the region, and the Palestinian government is having major problems establishing order and generating infrastructure. Although Palestine is a beautiful country the cities there are modified slums. They lack proper plumbing and trash collection. There is limited access to water in the region.

My first lesson was in regards to the Israeli government, and it was a lesson I learned over and over again on my trip. The Israeli government has a complete disregard for human rights (Please note the distinction between government and citizens). Upon leaving London I was strip searched by El Al, the Israeli airline. From Jerusalem to Bethlehem I passed through a check point. Because I had an American passport the Israeli soldiers didn't even check my passport, whereas I passed Palestinians who would be in line for hours just to get to work.

One day I visited Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Before entering the camp we toured the wall around the camp. Israel is actually building a three story wall across the country to separate Israel and Palestine. It is an incredible feat and really unbelievable to see. The year I was born the Berlin wall fell, people said "Never Again." When I was fifteen another wall began being constructed. The wall is effectually turning the West Bank into a cage.

At Aida camp I was fortunate enough to visit with one of the residents. Her family has been in the camp since 1948 when it was founded. For their first ten years there they lived in tents until huts could be constructed. Today she lives in a flat with plumbing. She told unbelievable stories. From her I learned the only justice allowed to Palestinians is a military court. In these courts there is no jury and one judge makes a ruling. The judge can site evidence that is not privy to the lawyers or the defendant. Often thirteen year old boys are sentenced in these courts for "throwing stones". A Palestinian child can be sentenced to up to twenty years in an adult prison for allegedly "throwing stones". I asked my host why these children were put in prison with adults. She told me that, internationally, it would be illegal to establish prisons for children, so they are placed in penitentiaries with adults.

The situation in the West Bank is dire. People have grand misconceptions of the war waging there now. Palestine is not a physically dangerous place to be. Bombs do not fall and police maintain some semblance of order. The war waging there is a psychological war. The sixty-second anniversary of the Israeli state was celebrated April twentieth. For sixty-two years Palestinians have been abused physically and psychologically by the Israeli government. I don't know how much longer a people can take that kind of mental battering. It's beyond an occupation; the West Bank is essentially a cage.

As noted above, Palestine is a really beautiful country. In my last days there I was fortunate enough to hike the Wadi Qalt. It is a beautiful river system running from Ramallah to Jericho. The farm itself sits a top a hill with a view to the Mediterranean. Two weeks that changed my life.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


For the past three weeks I have been out of the country, and I don't just mean the US of A. I've been jetting around Europe. Friday March 10th I met one of my dearest friends in Germany! She is working there for a year. We explored southern Germany. One of the highlights was Heidelberg. There was so much to do there! My favorites were the Schloss, or castle, and Philosopher's Way. Luckily for us the Schloss and Philosopher's Way were on opposite hills. We did a lot of hiking in Heidelberg. Pictured first is Philosopher's Way.

Mid-way through the week I departed Germany for Italy! I met my cousins in Bologna. They were wonderful hosts, taking me all around the city. The food was also UNBELIEVABLE. Between my cousins cooking and a wonderful evening out at an awesome restaurant my stomach grew a lot. Which was good, because I was soon off to Lanciano to spend time with my Grandfather's brother and his children. We ate and ate and ate, and when we weren't eating we were planning on what to eat next. You can understand why my stomach needed the extra space. It was glorious. I also managed to hike around the village where my Grandfather was raised; you can see it pictured second. Being there is just like being home.

I came back to Oxford just two days before I set off for Barcelona. Barcelona was beautiful. The Spanish culture is really wonderful. I was there with a friend, and we decided to take a bike tour the first day... best idea ever. It really helped us get oriented and learn about the city. One of my favorite parts of that trip was Park Guell. It's a park designed by the famous architect Gaudi. The last picture is a view of the park. We also had a wonderful dinner at Les Quinze Mity. Since all of the chefs there are in training it was gourmet quailty food on the cheap.

Wednesday I'm jetting off again for two weeks. In the mean time my friends and I (the few still in Oxford) are having a little Easter dinner. It's a potluck event, and I volunteered lasagna. What ever you are doing tomorrow I hope you have a safe and happy Easter. I'm sure the bunny will be good to all of us this year. Sending all my love from the 'shire.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Hump Day Eighth Week

Good evening from the 'shire. I've been super busy these last few weeks. Some of the highlights:

- February 13th I went to Stratford-upon-Avon. It was pretty disappointing. It might possibly be the town where Shakespeare was maybe possibly born and raised. Well, that he was born there is really all historians know for sure. The rest of the story is implied and a little hazy; that's why it's a little disheartening for tourists. It kind of feels like you're being tricked into a Shakespeare narrative that is not supported by any primary sources. I did get a sweet picture with the live Shakespeare statue though.

- February 19th my brother arrived for a short visit. We had a BLAST! I kept him pretty busy in Oxford, then we ventured to London for a football match. The game was Fulham v. Birmingham City. The score was 2-1 Fulham. We were rooting for Fulham, so it was really thrilling. Also, Fulham has had a rough season, so it was one of the first games in a while where they've scored. It heightened the excitement.

- February 25th I had my last British Women Writers tutorial. I was so sad to see it end. My tutor was wonderful; I learned SO much! Both of my tutorials have ended (Philosophy ended yesterday).

- March 4th my parents arrived; they just left today. We had a fabulous time. I really wore them out between running them around Oxford and a day trip to London. I am so glad they came to visit; I just wish they could have stayed longer. In London we started at the Eye which was REALLY cool. Then we watched parliament for a bit. From Parliament we crossed the street to Westminster Abbey. We had a wonderful audio tour there. From there we took the tube to the reconstructed Globe Theater and crossed the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral. We ended the day at Harrods. While they were here I preformed Beethoven's Mass in C and his Choral Fantasia with the OSUC. I'm so glad they got to see me sing again.

- March 6th I had my last OPUS excursion for this term to Bath. Bath was awesome. Before we got to Bath we stopped at a typical Cotswold village. I'm still confused as to why the Cotswolds are famous, but they are really pretty as you can see in the picture. The Roman Baths themselves are pretty cool, but there is also a Cathedral and a bazillion other museums to explore. I started at the baths. I even went to the Pump Room and got myself a glass of the water... it tasted gross. Then I went to the Bath Cathedral, it was beautiful. Next I found a great free gallery. The Victorian Art gallery was small, but a real gem. I jetted into the Jane Austen Center before ending the day at the Fashion Museum. The Austen Center was actually located in one of the four residences of Ms. Austen from her time spent in Bath. The center did a great job of reviewing Jane's life, and they didn't shy away from the fact that Jane actually didn't like her time in Bath (which was nice). The Fashion Museum was super cool. It included Bod Dylan's outfit from the cover of "Freewheelin'" and an exhibit on shoes. We all know how I feel about shoes.

Tomorrow I'm seeing Judy Dench in a "Midsummer Night's Dream", and Friday I'm heading to Germany. It should be great fun!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Oxford Union

The Oxford Union is one the multitude of societies available for Oxford students to join. In an earlier post I talked a little bit about it. It is a Union distinct from the University, and was founded in the mid nineteenth century when Oxford students were censored. Today, it is still a place open to opinions and student inquiries. Weekly, it holds a debate with international speakers. The Union also invites international guests to enlighten student audiences.

Last week the debate was titled "This House* would rather be unwell in Britain than in America". It was a fascinating heath care debate. I came to the conclusion that the two sides (those who prefer the British system and those who prefer the American system) were really comparing apples and oranges. Yes there is more technological innovation in a private system, but is heath care a universal right? It doesn't really work as a compound sentence. I came to the conclusion that I would rather have a chronic illness in Britain, but if I had a progressive disease that needed experimental treatment I would rather be in the U.S. I think my generation will be able to take the positives from both systems and combine them into real health care reform; that's my hope anyway.

Last Friday I saw the speaker of the House of Commons, John Barcrow, at the Union. It was cool to see him in person, and the question and answer portion was fabulous. He was very funny off the cuff. Also, the quality of audience questions was excellent. That's the best part about Union functions. One is surrounded by twenty-somethings who, as I do, care about current political and social issues; not just care but informed young people. Oxford is just a different kind of place; in a good way.

*"This House" refers to those present in the Union debating.