This week I visited a little Palestinian village called Yanoun, located just south of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Yanoun is a peaceful seeming place, overlooking the rolling mountains of the Jordan Valley, but it has a pretty violent past. In 2002, Israeli settlers forcibly evacuated the residents of Yanoun from their homes and from their village. After the diligent efforts of those who heard about the situation, including Israeli peace groups like T’ayush, many of the villagers were able to return home. In 2003, in response to an invitation from the mayor of Yanoun, EAs from around the world began living in the village to provide a protective presence from the surrounding settlements.
Today, Yanoun has a population about about 80 people, most of whom are children. Twelve years later, the incredibly beautiful village is still surrounded by Israeli settlements and outpots, all of which are illegal under international law. Its hard to put your finger on the atmosphere. One moment, the breathtaking landscape makes you forget you’re standing in an occupied territory. The next, you become keenly aware of the surrounding watch towers, settlements and massive spotlights that illuminate the village for those who are watching from the hilltops.
Visiting Yanoun was important for me for a lot of reasons. After spending the last few months in Jayyus, followed by a few weeks in the city, visiting Yanoun felt like coming home. Listening to the sheep bah-ing as I fell asleep gave me a certain comfort that I never thought it would. I’ve really grown to love the Palestinian countryside.
The other reason that visiting Yanoun was important for me is because of my dad. My dad worked as an EA in Yanoun three years ago now, and his experiences played a huge role in why I decided to come here myself. Watching my dad prepare for his trip, hearing over Skype about what he was seeing and doing, and listening to his stories when he got home had a huge impact on me. I feel very lucky to be his daughter.