I spent the weekend in a village called Yanoon, as I explained in my last entry, this village requires the constant presence of international volunteers to protect the villagers
from settler harrassment. To get to Yanoon we had to cross one of the many checkpoints that exist in the West Bank. Crossing the checkpoint is unsettling the first time you do it, and for a number of reasons.
One of the first things that struck me was that I, as an international volunteer and not a Palestinian, was given a separate lane for crossing through: the Humanitarian lane. While a huge line of Palestinian men waited to cross
I walked straight through with no troubles at all. Another thing that struck me was how young the Israeli soldiers were. Both men and women who seemed too young to possibly
be able to handle the machine guns that were slung over their shoulders.
As we left the checkpoint we took a taxi to the village of Yanoon, crossing through several other villages on the way. Our taxi driver was more that happy to stop for me to take pictures when I asked him to, and he explained the history of the
villages and his perspective of the occupation. On our way to Yanoon we drove past the Jordan valley, which was absolutely breathtaking, the landscape changes from one of hills and olive trees to a dramatic and vast desert.
WHen we arrived in Yanoon we decided to go help a family pick olives for the rest of the afternoon. The we met became our family for the rest of our time in Yanoon, despite the fact that they barely spoke any English and we spoke barely any Arabic.
We picked olives with them all afternoon, shared tea with them and watched the sun go over the hills. They then invited us to join them at their house later that evening. WHen we arrived at their house we were welcomed into a very old and very modest
stone building that smelled delicious. We sat in the living room on pillows on the floor and watched the American persidential debate dubbed over in Arabic (weird?) with the father Kemal and his brother Jamal. THey are two of 18 children!!! Soon Najiha (the mother) and her daughters
brought in an elaborate spread of food that was AMAZING! We had fried cubes of goats cheese that was made by Najiha from their own goats, fried in olive oil from their own olive trees. Of course we also had olives, Labneh (fresh yogurt), and home made bread that was so rustic and delicious.
Following the incredibly sweet tea we were served with our meal we were given incredibly sweet Arabic coffee. Kemal suggested that if we would like to see how Najiha made bread that we could get up with her in the morning and watch! We all were really excited to do this, and we
also said that we would like to spend the next day picking olives with them, so totally stuffed and loaded with sugar we headed back to the international house for the night.
Around midnight we were all woken up by the sound of an engine revving and bright lights outside our house. We all got up and peeked out the window, becuase we had been warned about the fact that settlers would often harrass internationals as well as the
locals. A military jeep that had driven into the village proceeded to drive around this sleepy little village, revving its engine loudly, likely in order to command attention.
We watched for while and noted that the jeep made its way to every house, doing the same thing before finally driving off into the night. It was unsettling to say the least to
bear witness to how invasive and frightening the IDF were to the villagers, as we learned later from the internationals who usually stay in Yanoon, this is a very common occurence. Apparently the army
does this to make their presence known, and to make the internationals feel protected(?). Ironic, as we were all woken up in a panic....
So after a less than restful sleep, I got up to watch Najiha make bread at 6am. The morning sunrise was really beautiful over the valley of olive groves and the little village.
We walked over to Najiha's bread making hut, which she had undoubtedly been working in for hours before we rolled out of bed becuase when we arrived the dough was ready to bake and the
coals had already been burned down to the perfect hot stones for baking. We watched her skillfully shape the bread and then place the dough directly on the hot coals, we had a bit of a laugh imagining how
the bread would turn out if we had tried it, becuase this was clearly an art form that had to be mastered! After she had made several "loaves" her little grandaughter brought out tea for all of us, and Najiha put a few pieces of her homemade
goats cheese directly on the coals for a few minutes, then we had hot tea, baked cheese and the freshest bread imaginable for breakfast over looking the valley. It was really peaceful and wonderful.
We spent the rest of the day picking olives with the family in their grove. Kemal though it was really funny that I knew how to use a hacksaw to cut the limbs off the olive trees, and then I explained to him that my father was a logger in Canada and he thought that was really
fascinating, and so I tired to explain that, how big the trees are, how we have trucks specifically to carry trees etc. Lunch with the family was another amazing feast, as I am coming to realize is very Palestinian, every one is so generous here, even those who have very little.
After lunch Claire and I went to walk down to lower Yanoon, as the internationals are encouraged to make this walk at least once a day in order to make their presence clear to the settlers. On our walk we passed by olive groves that
Kemal and Jamal had told us were literally Thousands of years old, it's so humbling to be around such ancient things. THen we walked up to the top of this hill to the site known as Nabinun. This site dates back to the Caananite period and is
believed to be the burial site of Nun, who was the father of Joshua. From this hilltop we could see the Jordan valley and the rolling desert. Really beautiful and again, humbling.
The village of Yanoon is beautiful, but the people really make it unforgettable. A book has been written about the village and the violence of the settlers who have encroached on this land and violated international law called "Living with Settlers" for anyone who is interested in
Love you all!