Bethlehem shepherds, water shortage and trees of hope

by Rosemarie Wenner last modified 28 November 2018 11:43 AM
Bethlehem shepherds, water shortage and trees of hope

Photo: Emma Halgren/WCC

28 November 2018

This Christmas Season I will have concrete places in my mind when I listen to the story of the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. I will think of the Bedouin community in Suyica, near Yatta, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. They live in tents and in caves because they are not allowed to build houses. Together with about 20 Methodists from around the globe representing the World Methodist Council, we visited them in October.

They told us of their struggle to survive in a hostile neighborhood with water shortage and the threat of demolition orders. And yet, they continue to journey together and they work creatively for their survival.

I bought some souvenirs in their shop in a cave underneath the earth. Women had made beautiful purses and table cloths.

People who are working for EcoPeace Middle East brought us to Suyica. EcoPeace cares for the preservation of God’s creation, a fair access to water for all and a peaceful coexistence of the people in Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Bedouin and farmer communities in the West Bank seem to trust the EcoPeace staff, although they work with people and governments of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. “Peace on Earth” is their aim and they put their aim into action, living with many ambiguities and yet standing in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable.

I will also think of the Nassar family and their farm right there in the fields of Bethlehem. On October 11 we presented the 2017 World Methodist Council Peace Award to the Nassar family. It was a joyful feast under the open sky.

The Nassar family lives on the very farm since 1916. Though they have documents that the land is theirs, they are in an ongoing court case since 19 years.

Farming seems nearly impossible because of water shortage, demolishing of newly planted trees and so on. But the family continues to do their work under the convictions: “We refuse to hate - We refuse to be victims. - We are acting differently because of our Christian faith - We believe in justice.”

They do not only sustain their farm work, they care for the neighbors, especially for children, youth and women. And they welcome everyone at their land. I talked to a young man from Germany. He served as a volunteer for a couple of weeks. And a retired pastor from the USA said: “Here I find rest and peace!”

At the entrance of the farm a message is written on a stone: “We refuse to be enemies.”

What if all followers of Christ together with people of good will of all religions and no religion would live out this conviction? Peace would overcome hatred and hope would grow like the trees on the Nassar farm.

Not all these trees will bear fruit. Some will likely be demolished by the bulldozers of the Israeli army, as it happened in the past. But new trees of hope will be planted. Love will prevail and the presence of international friends including the volunteers of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) makes a difference at the Nassar farm, in Suyica and in many other places in the conflicted area.


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

More information.