Yanoun means “peace and quiet”. It is easy to believe this when one’s eyes follow the contours of the landscape. But the hilltops are dotted with settlement outposts. All movements in this ancient village are watched from the illegal Israeli settlement Itamar and its outposts.
The village is situated in the hills south-east of the city of Nablus. Ancient ruins in this town is considered by Biblical scholars to occupy the site of the ancient town of Janohah which belonged to the Tribe of Ephraim.
It is one of the smallest surviving villages in the occupied Palestinian territories after it was nearly wiped off the face of the map in 2002 when Israeli settlers invaded the village and forced the men, women and children from their homes. Mayor Rashed Murrar remembers the events of 2002:
They came with dogs and guns, every Saturday at night. They beat men in front of their children. One Saturday they said that they didn’t want to see anyone here next Saturday and that we should move to Aqraba. The whole village left that week.
Since 2003, at the invitation of the village mayor, there has been an international protective presence in Yanoun provided by the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
The EAPPI presence has created some breathing space for the villagers of Yanoun and the level of settler of violence has reduced in recent years. Nevertheless, the underlying problems of lack of development due to being in Area C and the constant illegal confiscation of their land (and therefore their livelihood) remain massive challenges for the villagers.
The Yanoun farmers and their families still face regular intimidation and harassment from armed groups of settlers from Itamar settlement.
Hundreds of acres of land belonging to the villagers have been gradually stolen by the settlers – the villagers now to grazing their sheep on the last remaining few acres of land in the valley. The hilltops and fields beyond are off-limits to the Palestinian farmers. If they attempt to reach their land they risk being shot on sight. Meanwhile, the Israeli settlers, supported by the Israeli government and army, construct agricultural facilities, houses, roads, and infrastructure to connect their illegal settlements and outposts, making a two-state solution an impossibility.
For a follow-up on an incident in July 2013 with armed Israeli settlers,