Five years ago, I learned that Ilana Sumka was planning a delegation from an Haaretz article titled “The tree uprooting heard around the world.” The article detailed the uprooting of 1,500 fruit trees on Daoud Nassar’s farm.
I knew Daoud. I had visited his “Tent of Nations” farm back when I was eighteen years old. I was on an Encounter trip — coincidentally, with Ilana. I had been living across the street at the time in a West Bank settlement called Migdal Oz where I was studying for the year.
I remember being shocked to find that the Nassar family farm, a peaceful place full of international volunteers, existed so very near a settlement I knew so well. He, his farm, and his struggle had been entirely outside of my field of vision.
If Encounter expanded my field of vision, Ilana was now offering me a way to not only see Daoud, his land and his trees, but a way to help him resist occupation: to rebuild and replant. “I want to let the Nassar family know that the Israeli government’s bulldozers don’t represent my Jewish values,” read her quote.
I wanted in. I wanted to answer Daoud’s call and walk with Ilana. My Jewish values demanded that I not stand idly by. They demanded that I take action.
That is where my relationship with CJNV began. I helped Ilana organize that first delegation and begin to build the infrastructure for a real organization.
Since that first delegation in 2015, I have helped to organize and participate in delegations that brought Jews from around the world into relationship — on the ground — with so many Palestinians already doing powerful resistance work. I joined the World Zionist Congress & Stand with Susiya delegation in Fall 2015, Occupation is Not Our Judaism in 2016, and Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue in 2017.
It is those bonds of solidarity between the delegation-activists and our Palestinian partners who I’ve grown to know so well that sustain my hope that the future for all those who live in Israel-Palestine can be better than their present.
I remember one of the first delegations to Hebron just over a year later. We attempted to clear space for a movie theater so that Youth Against Settlements would be able to help reclaim a privately owned plot of land as a place of recreation.
Five members of our delegation were arrested that day. They were released just as Shabbat was coming in that evening. The rest of us watched as they arrived and welcomed them as we did the Sabbath bride: with song. Standing in a circle, in the village of Susiya, we sang to them:
Courage, my friend.
You do not walk alone.
We will walk with you,
And sing your spirit home.
I will never forget that moment. I felt tears in my eyes at the joy of seeing our friends returned to us, and a deep happiness at being together with them, especially on Shabbat, especially in Susiya whose residents — long-time nonviolent activists — were so graciously hosting us, teaching us, and feeding us.
I could not help but think in that moment that this is what solidarity looks like.
My work with CJNV has now been a nearly six-year journey and has influenced so many aspects of my life. I carry with me everyday those memories and relationships — from Susiya, from Umm El Kheir, from Batan al Hawa, and from Tent of Nations — and I know that so many others do as well.
Each delegation has built on the previous one, growing our community person by person, report-back by report-back, and bringing the relationships and stories of our Palestinian partners back to our communities.
This is holy work. May we all be blessed to continue the struggle until one day we see a future that includes justice, compassion, and solidarity for all.
Let us walk together,