Yanoun villagersSeven years later, the village is still there, but it does not thrive. Villagers are not allowed to build or repair existing houses, install telephone lines or create infrastructure to benefit the community; with 60% of the community under 16 this does not bode well. They say they would share the land if they could graze their sheep and pick their olives, but they know they have no chance of altering the minds of the settlers who want them gone.

Unlike Jerusalem, our Yanouni team have a pretty idyllic time of it. They walk the couple of miles between Upper and Lower Yanoun twice a day, chat with their neighbours, hang out with the shepherds, and eat well on local produce. But they can never relax: they are constantly on the alert for army incursions and scan the horizon with binoculars for settlers. Extreme settler violence has decreased but the potential for harassment is always there. Teenagers with rifles, specimens of the broadly nicknamed Hilltop Youth, walk through the village arrogantly asking men old enough to be their grandfathers to show their IDs. Villagers have never so much as touched a settler, yet in this upside down world any incident results in Yanounis being arrested. And the outposts are still encroaching while the fields that the Yanounis abandon move further down the hillsides.

The trickiest time of the year is the olive harvest. Many trees are up near the outposts where Yanounis dare not go. The army is supposed to protect Palestinians for three to four days in these areas and Israeli and international activists help get their harvest in before the permit runs out. (This scenario is repeated all over the West Bank.) But this year, the IDF put out a statement saying: ‘Israeli civilians will not be permitted to enter particular olive fields so as to prevent friction between different populations. Representatives of Israeli Police and IDF will be present.’ Friction between different populations is a euphemism for settler violence. But Israeli activists provide both manpower and protection, whereas the IDF doesn’t pick any olives and only spuriously protects because the settlers call the tune. Last week, Israeli activists were turned back before they reached Yanoun and our team picked for only half a day before a settler objected. The police ordered us to leave. Unbelievable. This year the harvest was poor because of the drought so in the end the three days were enough to harvest the upper grove. Olive picking in spectacular surroundings surely has to be one of the most harmonious ways to spend a day.

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