J. and I stay in Yanoun. He does not fancy school so I go on my own. The relationship between me and the teachers, all men, without a man that accompanies me is completely different. The teachers say hello briefly to me and avoid me as much a possible, so I go home for some lunch during the break.

In class, the teachers do try to include me in the dynamics, the English teacher specially. He asks the pupils questions about Spain and they all say that it is in Europe and that its capital is Madrid, and that it has olive trees, like Palestine, and that some words are the same in Arabic and Spanish. When he resumes the normal English lesson he also asks me from time to time whether I would like to add something to his explanations.

When school finishes it is midday and I feel like walking in the sun, so J and I visit lower Yanoun for the rest of the day.

Lower Yanoun is gorgeous, although it is more windy and cold than in the rest of the valley. Looking at Upper Yanoun from here, the houses can almost be confused with the rocks; in fact it is difficult to see them unless you know there are houses there and you look for them. Fig 19

The unwritten but strict rules say that the villagers must not step out of the mountain where the village stands, or they may be killed. The settlers are armed and they tend not to be arrested when they assault Palestinians; if caught when they kill one, the penalty, if there is one, is always laughable. So J. and I walk on the road without stepping out.

A girl shouts “hello!” from the distance while she runs towards us. When she gets nearer, she tells us that her mother wants us to visit her house.

We follow the girl and then climb on some rocks. We get into a bare stone construction through a hole in a wall that resembles a gate. We continue climbing after the girl, still inside this bare building. As we climb up, the rocks we are climbing, laid in disorder on top of each other, become something like a staircase and there is an overture to our left. We go through it and we are then inside a covered patio/corridor with entrances like this one on both sides. Some of them have curtains down to knee-level.

The girl guides us into one of those entrances and takes off her shoes; we do the same. The room we enter is still made of stone and has a telly on a hole in the wall, a table, a chair and a couple of mattresses. This is their living room and this is their furniture. The whole place is quite windy; the wind comes through the window (which again is just a whole in the wall, no frame, no glass), and goes out the door to the rest of the house. We look out the window when the woman leaves and we see that we are on the equivalent to a western fifth floor from the street level.

The woman returns with some food for J. and me and after a bit of conversation the mother asks us to go with her children to a nearby mountain to take some lunch to their father. Usually she brings her husband his lunch while her children take the sheep and goats to the fountain, but now that we are here she would feel a lot safer if the children go to the mountains with some internationals and she tenders the animals instead of leaving the children in the village alone while she goes to the mountain.

We start what is supposed to be a ten minute walk with some glasses, a few empty plastic bottles and a covered tray. The first stop is the village’s fountain, to fill the bottles with water for their father’s meal.

The children explain that there is no water inside their houses. I look up towards the settlement in the certainty that there is not a single house there without cold and hot water supply inside, heating and lots of furniture.

The fountain is right next to the road and we continue following it. Suddenly an army vehicle that looks more like a tank than like a car appears from nowhere and we all freeze at the side of the road, looking at each other and at the vehicle. It is a compact thing made of brown metal with wheels that can not be seen. The passengers or drivers can not be seen either.

We continue frozen while the vehicle passes besides us and, once it is out of sight, the girl looks at me, smiles and exhales a deep breath: luckily nothing has happened this time. Clearly, these children are more used to this kind of vehicle than us.

I do not even take my camera out to take a picture of this vehicle because very time one takes a picture of anything from the military – a checkpoint, an outpost, a soldier even – one is risking, if not one’s life, at least the camera, the tapes and all the content taken so far. Or maybe it is because its appearance was too sudden and we were too frozen.

We continue walking on the side of the road and then start climbing the mountain where the children’s father is. After fifteen minutes of the children saying “near” every time we ask where he is, they shout “there!”.

J. goes on climbing with the boys and I sit down on a rock with the girl. Their father is with two other men and the three of them are throwing trunks down the hill. It is the wood they will be using in the winter to heat their houses, the girl explains. I truly hope they also manage to sell some of it, because this is what they have clearly been doing all day today – I do wonder what these people live on.

J. helps them with the trunks, the children leave the food with the rest of the men’s things, and after a few minutes most of the children are sitting with me. They play with some mud and branches from the olive trees, making a representation of a muddy yet beautiful park. It shows they have plenty of experience using mud and small branches as toys. Fig 20.

I tell them that the view is beautiful and one of the boys tells me: “All this land, my father’s. Settlers steal it”. I move my head waiting for a bit of a clearer explanation and he goes on: “One day, settler says, ‘it’s mine'” So that’s it. I take some pictures of the land he is indicating and it is actually the best portion of land I can see around, right in the valley, flat and easy to work on. The rest is on the hills where we are sitting now, rocky, hilly and with the trees a lot more scattered away from each other than down there in the valley. Fig 21

I guess that’s the explanation. They just loose their livelihood to a fanatic, armed settler, and they try to get by with tree trunks for heating. I also guess they lost or sold all their furniture, doors and windows in the process, and that’s probably why the little girl’s house is so bare.

J. and the men throw the trunks down the hill for almost an hour after they eat. We should not be this far away from the houses and the rest of the neighbours for too long so we make our excuses before sunset and return. In the distance we see a shepherd leading his sheep. J. says something like, “This is so culturally distant to me, I find it funny, difficult to understand, how a bunch of sheep just follow the shepherd, with no questioning, they just follow him”. I look at him trying to understand. For me it is just so natural, how could it be any different? But then several members of my family have been shepherds at different times of their lives, I even had the chance to accompany them at times, so for me the funny thing is J.’s surprise.

In fact I am finding ever so many similarities between the Arab and the Spanish cultures, cuisines and ways of life. I guess they were not around for eight centuries for nothing.

In the afternoon J. receives a call saying we should leave Yanoun and go to Bi’Lin, where there has been a violent incursion by the Israeli Army, and some one is needed there quickly because there is no international there at the moment. It is not quite surprising that the Army has done this on a day when there were no internationals there. After all, what we are here for is mostly to monitor actions like these, exactly the kinds of things that the Army do not want to be known.

Apparently here in Yanoun it has been pretty quiet in the last two weeks since the last attack – our presence here is not as necessary any more, some people think. Or at least it seems more necessary in Bi’Lin because of the recent incursion. J. and I discuss this and reach to the conclusion that if we leave this village empty, the same, or similar, thing can happen here. But J. would also rather leave the inactivity here for Bi’Lin and the weekly demonstration there, where he thinks he will be more effective.

Apparently the incursion in Bi’Lin was specially nasty and there is pressure for us to leave this place in order to “cover” Bi’Lin. But I think that we both should not leave Yanoun empty because that would contribute to the possibility of incursions here.

J. and I decide to go and see the village Mayor and ask him what he thinks. His English is not too fluent but it is enough to ask us to stay. He fears that there will be incursions here if only one of us stays. He says the Israeli army will know how many of us there is here because they are observing the village all the time from the outpost on the top of the hill.

Nothing of importance has happened so far, but, again, if nothing happens is probably because of our presence. I begin to suspect that we must be quite uncomfortable for these fanatic orthodox, who can not continue to terrorise the Palestinian population as they would like to, just because there are some foreigners who take pictures and videos of human rights abuses. What a hazard. As if it wasn’t enough,most of the inhabitants of this village, who had left it thanks to the settlers making their lives impossible, have come back to the very houses they left, because of these foreigners.

J. thinks it is a good compromise to leave one person here while the other leaves. He wants to get to Bi’Lin in time for the demonstration, so packs his things in order to leave early tomorrow morning in the school shuttle. We say our good nights and good byes sure that we will see each other again around the occupied lands.