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Jerusalem, October 2009

YanounDear everybody,
There are many disturbances in Jerusalem this week: clashes between police and Palestinian youth, beatings, teargassing, settler harassment, and many arrests. It all revolves around the week of the Jewish festival of Sukkoth and renewed Palestinians fears over the fate of Haram al Sharif where the Al Aqsa mosque is. As usual there are many versions of what is happening, accusations, and counter accusations, but concern is heightened by the knowledge that the last Intifada started in Jerusalem in a similar fashion. Tension mounts whenever the mosque is involved, and either side could exploit it.

However, I’m not actually in Jerusalem to witness it so you’ll probably know as much as me from your own newspapers.

I’ve come to pick olives in Yanoun, a small farming community in the north east of the West Bank overlooking the Jordan Valley. It is hard to describe how beautiful it is. It has that timeless quality, you can imagine it having been like this for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Even in the West Bank, there are not many places like it still left. Yet its beauty is not the only thing it is famous for. In October 2002, it became the first Palestinian village since 1948 to be completely emptied of its inhabitants, by violence from the fundamentalist settlers of Itamar about 10 km away. Established in 1986, Itamar began spreading its outposts over the hills encircling the Yanoun valley in the mid 1990s. Water tower, electricity pylons, vineyards, chicken farms, mushroomed. Settlers encroached on Yanouni land, terrifying its inhabitants. A decade of violence culminated in the October attack and the villagers finally fled. Israeli human rights activists eventually persuaded them to return if an international presence was established, and that was the genesis of EAPPI in the village.

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