Bearing Witness

The Story of Yanoun

I have just returned from Yanoun village, where I have spent the last two days, and I would like to tell their horrific story.

Yanoun is one of the smallest villages in the Palestinian occupied territories, but it is remarkable that it is still a village at all. For over ten years, extremist settlers based at illegal outposts supported by the Israeli settlement of Itamar have been persistently harassing the villagers. Using means including violence and the destruction of infrastructure. The aim of the settlers is transfer by stealth, settlers gaining control of the villagers land by scaring the farmers away.

Tonight Yanoun farmer’s and their families will go to sleep, again, under bright spotlights directed at them from the outposts set on the hilltops above – barely 400 meters from their homes. Since 1996 residents have been beaten up; their sheep mutilated; their crops destroyed; their wells poisoned; their land seized and their lives threatened. While one settler has even shoot a farmer while he plowed his field, killing him.

The situation became so bad that in October 2002 the last six families in the village left in fear of their lives. The week before settlers had come down to the village heavily armed and with dogs and beat up men in front of their children and stated that they did not want to see anyone here next week. One villager who had lived in Yanoun for seven generations stated that “death would be easier than leaving, but the welfare of the children was at stake. One of my sons would cry and hold me in fear and I had to get up at night and take his hand just to go to the bathroom. No can except living like this” – Khamal sobin

However the following week Israeli Peace group Ta’ ayush came to  the villagers aid establishing a constant presence in the village in order to enable the villagers to return home. Which they did little by little, some taking up to two years before they felt safe enough to return. Upon their return many villagers found their homes ransacked, windows smashed and everything inside either stolen or broken.

since then life has improved slightly in the village, mainly due to the international presence which is now supplied by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel [EAPPI]. I was there as part of my work with Project Hope who provide a presence during the hand over period between one group of EAPPI volunteers and the next. While I still heard stories of settlers destroying 200 year old olive trees, urinating in the village wells and beating up villagers who stray to far from the village. At least they no longer live in fear of their lives. It’s just a shame that their security has to be insured by an international presence, not the Israeli Defence Force – who under international law are charged with their protection, but rarely live up to these obligations.

* The information in this post was gathered from residents of Yanoun and a book on Yanoun called “Living with Settlers” by Thomas Mandal.

One of the several outpost on the hilltops above Yanoun.

One of the several outpost on the hilltops above Yanoun.

 

Upper Yanoun

Upper Yanoun

 

The view from Yanoun - down the Jordan Valley

The view from Yanoun - down the Jordan Valley

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November 18, 2008 - Posted by | My Thoughts, My Travels | , , , ,

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