As M. drives us to the nearest town, he tells us about the latest incident that happened in the village where we are going. A settler injured a Palestinian farmer and he is luckily alive, recovering in hospital.

We get off M.’s car in Aqraba and he continues his trip after arranging for a taxi to pick us up. We wait right in the spot where he leaves us, with our bags on the ground, on the side of the road. Next to us there is a stone wall. A few metres away from us, also next to the wall, are about six or seven men sitting in a semicircle. Of course our presence does not go unnoticed. They ask us where we are from and then tell us that the taxi M. has arranged should be here in ten or fifteen minutes. Then another man appears as if from nowhere and offers us two chairs that we can’t refuse.

Then yet another man, more elderly than all the rest, approaches us, with a handkerchief like the one Arafat used to wear. First he asks J. where he comes from, and then he asks “and your companion, where is she from?” J. lets me answer. He tells us he is the major of the town and the conversation takes political and religious paths. He asks J. whether he believes in God and J. says he is not religious. The man can not understand that some one does not believe in God. He asks J. a few more questions trying to understand this fact and then he asks me. When I say yes, he sighs, in relief, as if saying, “well at least it is not both of them”.

Then he asks J. what he has studied. He answers up to Secondary School. The man insists, so we guess he is referring to University. “No, I have not gone to University”, J. says. The face of the man says that he doesn’t understand. “But all Americans go to University. Why you did not go to University?” “I come from a poor background”, J answers. “Poor?” The man touches the handkerchief on his head as if saying to himself “let’s see if I can understand this”. We look at him, somewhat amused. “Poor in America?” (as in “but ‘are there’ poor in America?”). J. and I bit our lower lips. We explain that in America, and all over the world, there are poor people, not just in countries like this. I suspect the man either can not understand it, can not believe us, or both.

The Palestinian people have been seeing foreigners, mainly from the USA, for many years; people who have been coming in solidarity, like us. The good consequence is that they are able to distinguish between the governments and the governed. The bad consequence is that, having had contact only with those who come, they have been getting these misleading ideas, that all western people, specially those from the US, are vegetarians and have gone to University, because all US people they have met are vegetarians and have gone to University.

So they are now faced with the very different story of J., who has spent two years working and saving up to pay for this trip, and has never been to University, and one stereotype they have formed over the years thanks to the stories of the people they have met goes out of the window.

After this, J. asks him about the event of a few days ago. He tells us that the injured man is an acquaintance of his, a cousin. He was in his land harvesting his olives when a settler, a man with a riffle, came up to him. The farmer picked up a stone in an instinctive move to defend himself. Palestinians are not allowed to have weapons even at home, and can not carry knives in the street, while the settlers are allowed, and even encouraged, to carry big machine guns hanging from their shoulders.

The settler shouted something like “What are you doing on my land!” and the farmer told him that it was his land, that his family had had it for generations, and that he had come to pick up olives like every year. The settler screamed at him again saying that the land was his by divine right, since the Bible says it, and that the Palestinian had no right to step on it.

At this point the farmer threw the stone to the ground, away from the settler, and then the settler, with the back of his riffle, hit him strongly on the face, making a big wound, and the farmer had to be taken to hospital. “He has been in hospital for ten days now”, says the mayor of Aqraba.

During his speech I have taken out my camera and have tried to record is words. The mayor has become more and more formal since he realised that a camera was filming. We tell him that we are not journalists, that we will try to get this out in our own circles, but he just goes on in his dignified pose of a mayor, explaining… It seems he is desperate to get his word out, to talk about his people’s situation, and any one with a camera will surely do the job; better talk to any foreigner who may bring the word out than shy away because they are not “proper” journalists.

When the taxi finally comes, we give the chairs back and we say good bye to the men. The mayor offers us his house to come and eat whenever we want to, but, our function being to be in Yanoun in order to avoid as much as possible that something like this happens again, we are not able to accept his offer.

The taxi takes us through a very narrow road that is the only access to it from Palestinian territory. The road is tiny, but recently asphalted. The taxi driver tell us that it was a path before (I imagine it would be a goats’ path like the ones we have already experienced), until just two months ago, when a bank from Saudi Arabia financed the asphalting works.

We arrive at the “international flat” in Yanoun. There are three internationals here, but two of them are leaving tomorrow and there should always be at least two internationals here. They explain the situation in Yanoun, although J. has been here already, helping out in the olive harvest, I guess while I was in Balata.

The village is situated in one face of a hill, itself surrounded by other hills, leaving just one valley through which the road goes. The Israeli settlement extends over the three mountains, although we don’t see any inhabited house from here. All the inhabitants of this village see is the soldiers’ outposts, and some barracks, up on the mountains at each side of this one, in such a way that they are observed from right and left, as we look down on the valley.

During the night there are two very powerful light shots, illuminating the village so that the soldiers (and probably the settlers too, given the very close relationship they have with each other) can have a clear view of the village all night. As for the streets themselves, the lighting is very poor, paid for by charity too.

The limits of the area we, internationals included, can walk, are very clear. We and the Palestinians can only go towards Aqraba, via the road or the lands at the right of it. Not to the left. So the mountain on the left is a no-go area for us. In the mountain to our right there is a house of a Palestinian family and that is the limit; we can not go any further. And, up this mountain, a few rocks are the “border”. If we do not respect these rules, we could be shot at from the outposts.

Our functions here are to stay visible, to visit the village’s families, and to call certain Israeli authorities and activists if we see armed settlers, or any Israeli, approach the well – which they have poisoned before already – or the electricity generator. They sabotaged the old one, which had been paid for by the United Nations, and made it useless.

In a normal country it would be enough to call the police to stop barbaric acts when they happen. Here, the soldiers would detain the Palestinians if they approached the outposts asking for help, and would probably shoot them if they confronted the settlers while destroying the things they need to live.

L., who has been here for a while now, tells us the story of a man who was walking down the road to Aqraba and was approached by two soldiers. They told him to go to the other side of the road but he refused, knowing that it is forbidden for Palestinians to go that side. The soldiers insisted and he overhead one of them saying that the next thing they would do if he did obey and go to the other side of the road they would detain him and get the police to properly arrest him for going to the forbidden side of the road. He then insisted that he could not go to that side of the road, and they arrested him.

There is some Israeli organisation that is in contact with this project, like “Rabbies for Human Rights”. One of them has made himself available for this village for any emergency, even in the night. This is because if a Palestinian or foreigner calls the authorities, they will not move a finger, but it is different if it is an Israeli calling them.

As if to lead us by example, L. takes us to the house of one of the local families and after a few seconds of talking, of course we are invited for dinner – a few small dishes of hummus, olive oil, tomato sauce, eggs, zahtar, olives….

L. has been around for a few months and is learning Arabic, so a conversation in Arabic is established in one corner of the floor-made-table while English is spoken in the rest of the room.

As usual, we get some of the history of the village from its inhabitants.

Three or four years ago the settlers started a campaign of “night raids” into the village and terrorised the Palestinian villagers, coming with white hoods, in Ku Klux Klan fashion. They also bathed in the only well that provides all the water this village uses, and they bathed their dogs too. This made the water completely unusable. They also destroyed their electricity generator, which had been paid for by some United Nations program – they said that no one had asked the settlers for permission to install it, therefore it must have been their duty to destroy it. All this happened, the family tell us, while the soldiers stood by, doing nothing apart from laughing. The settlers eventually killed one of the villagers and all the families decided to leave. The whole village was empty except for two people who did not have any family that could house them elsewhere.

There was a big hype about it; the media came, and then the internationals came. They wanted to return to their village and lead normal lives – like the normal people that they are, they just want to leave in peace and go about their lives, work their land, tender their olive trees, harvest their olives, press them and get oil, cook with it or make soap, and maybe even sell it in order to buy fruits and vegetables to eat. They do not want to look out to the top of the hill in fear that the settlers will have a party tonight and come and terrorise the village in celebration while the soldiers watch from the watch tower, watching out for Palestinians in order to detain them and send them to a martial trial with charges unknown, proving the world that all Palestinians are terrorists.

So they asked the Internationals to stay and protect them, if only with their presence, with our cameras and our words and our privileges as citizens of rich countries as our weapons, against the soldiers’ and settlers’ M16s.

Some settlers apparently told the Palestinians that the media would eventually leave and so would the internationals, but the settlers would always stay.

But the Internationals have not left since then, and although we can not prevent punctual events like the last one from happening, life has gone on relatively peacefully in the village, apart from the occasional visit from the settler security patrol or the army visits, like the time when some soldiers claimed the right to get in the International House.

One of the many children of the family, a beautiful little girl, keeps looking at me almost in amazement and at one point I ask her, like the children asked us in Balata: “what is your name?” A very basic conversation follows between her and me and she asks me to go to school with her tomorrow.

We eventually leave the house and come back to the international flat, then take a rest and talk about what the locals have told us. I tell L. about the girl’s idea of me going to school and he encourages me to accept her invitation. He says the local people will appreciate my presence. In fact he goes to the village school every day, and talks with the teachers and plays with the pupils in the breaks … He also says that tomorrow’s English lesson is at nine in the morning, which is the perfect time for us both to go together and then stay for the rest of the day.