On June 10 I set out from Upper Yanoun for the routine morning walk. We have two options on our twice daily walks: Old Nablus Road (7 km) or Jordan Valley View (6 km).
My destination was the Jordan Valley Road via Lower Yanoun. I live in Upper Yanoun with four other internationals and six families. Lower Yanoun is 2.5 km down the valley from Upper Yanoun and has 10 families.
Lower Yanoun lies within Area B, with shared Israeli and Palestinian administration and control. Development is possible in Area B. Upper Yanoun lies within Area C, the area under complete Israeli military administration and control. Development proposals for building new homes, renovating old homes, upgrading water systems, and other community improvements are rarely approved under the current Israeli administration.
These areas were set out in the Interim Israeli-Palestinian Agreement of 1993, also known as the Oslo Peace Agreement (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/the israeli-palestinian interim agreement.aspx).
As I arrived in Lower Yanoun, the long-awaited birth of a new donkey was over. This little guy was up and moving around with a frisky nature. His mother, a shy brown jenny, has come to love the carrots, pears and apples that I bring as a treat. She lets us come up to her offspring and pet him.
The mom shows no concern when we are around her colt, even when he is picked up. He’s frisky, but when in my arms, he was relaxed and seemed content.
After a quick visit, I joined Khader, one of five brothers who lives in Lower Yanoun. We took his sheep and goats to the fields of wheat which had been harvested the day before. Once the sheep were grazing on the wheat stubble, I set off to the end of the Jordan Valley road, to monitor a new illegal settlement development behind Hill 777 that is heading in the direction of the small village of Ad Dama. After taking photographs of a new barn, I started my return.
In the early morning sun, Khader’s field looked like this, with sheaves of wheat bundled from the harvesting machine.
Further along, there was huge pile of wheat sheaves in the middle of the field. Together we gathered up the remaining sheaves of wheat at the far edges of the field and added them to the big pile in the middle, leaving the field looking bare except for the olive trees.
Khader is one of five brothers who lives in Lower Yanoun. He is married to Miriam and they have 3 children with a fourth on the way. He is industrious and loves his land. In addition to wheat, he has a flock of sheep and goats and several acres of okra which will fetch a good price in the market. He is standing with some of his sheep in front of one of the trees passed down from his grandfather’s father:
And on that tree were olives that will ripen and be harvested in October and November.
This land has sustained Palestinians and earlier inhabitants of this land for many, many generations. Under the Israeli occupation, Palestinians have less land on which to produce their crops to feed themselves and their animals. Land which they used in the past has been taken by Israeli settlers without compensation. This is putting the squeeze on communities, especially in Area C, where families have less land, cannot build homes for the next generation, or make any improvements that would benefit the families.
What will their future look like? Where will they live? How much longer can they remain? Will they see peace in their lifetime?
These were the questions on my mind on my early morning walk near the Jordan Valley.