Tuesday, 16 March 2010


We drove up from the Jordan Valley through the rain and fog to find the small road leading us to the town of Aqraba and on to the village of Yanoun in the West Bank. Yanoun is surrounded by Jewish settlements and became a flashpoint in 2003 when settlers drove the inhabitants from their homes.

This reminder of the expulsion of Arab populations in 1948 caused Jewish Peace activists to protect the village from being taken over by the settlers, and since that time there has been an international presence in the village, though a few of the houses are still sadly left empty. As it is, shepherds cannot take their sheep up the hillsides to graze, in case of confrontations with the settlers, nor can children play or explore.

I had gone with a friend to visit Jan Sutch Pickard, who is there for 3 months with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel). Their role is really just to be a presence in the village. Our visit coincided with that of a theatre group, Clowns without Borders, whose programme is called Laughter without Borders. They were spending just over a week in Palestine, before spending a few days in Israel playing to mixed audiences.

In Yanoun numbers were intimate, but it was so good to see the children laugh – there must be precious little of that. It was a happy day and the village seemed almost idyllic – until you noticed the looming presence of the settlements on the surrounding hills.

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