Yanoun, the Valley of Shadows

“I see what I want of love…I see
horses making the meadow dance, fifty guitars sighing, and a swarm
of bees suckling the wild berries, and I close my eyes
until I see our shadow behind this dispossessed place”
– from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem Rubaiyat

It’s 6AM. We are overlooking the Jordan Valley while the sun rises and throw it’s sunbeams over an olive tree covered landscape. It’s quiet. We have no need to talk to each other. We just look. Enjoy. The view over the Jordan Valley takes your breath away. Beautiful. I can’t find other words that can describe the small village of Yanoun.

An EA photographs Israeli settlement outposts on the hills surrounding Yanoun. Photo EAPPI/A. Aguilar.

An EA photographs Israeli settlement outposts on the hills surrounding Yanoun. Photo EAPPI/A. Aguilar.

The morning sun lights up the entire valley. But a shadow still covers Yanoun like a lid. Our eyes move along the horizon. We see some buildings on the hilltops that surround us. They are Israeli outposts. Outposts are expanding settlements on Palestinian land that the Israeli government has not legally approved.  They are illegal according to both Israeli and international law. Two such outposts surround Yanoun. Givat Olam and Hill 777. The reason we do morning walks is not to take in the beautiful scenery of the Jordan Valley, but to provide protective presence.

The settlers from the outposts are known to be extremely violent. They were so violent against the villagers in Yanoun that the whole village was evacuated in 2002. The Mayor, Rashed Murar, explains:

“They came with dogs and weapons every Saturday night. The settlers climbed on top of the roofs in our village. They beat up the men in front of their children. One Saturday they said that they didn’t want to see us there the next week. The whole village left that week.”

This created strong international reactions, and since 2003 EAPPI has been present in the village. Unfortunately, settlers and soldiers keep on harassing the villagers and make life difficult.

A flock of sheep in Yanoun. Photo EAPPI/A. Aguilar.

A flock of sheep in Yanoun. Photo EAPPI/A. Aguilar.

We feel the tense atmosphere in Yanoun. It is a strange mix of peacefulness, unpredictability and fear. On the hilltops around the village, the settlers constructed watchtowers and huge spotlights that light up the village every night. Freedom of mobility is limited. Settlers wash their dogs in the village’s drinking water. They attack the village regularly. And the duty of the Israeli soldiers is to protect these settlers. As a result, there are only 70 villagers left in Yanoun.

It is recess at the village school. The seven pupils play with a ball while I drink tea with the teachers. We joke about each other and about the neighboring village. Life goes on and it is important to keep your head up.

Before I leave a teacher says pensively:

“Why do the Israelis look down on us? We are all equal. We are all humans. We are all brothers. Why?”

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