When the villagers decided to leave Yanoun after the terror campaign carried out by the local settlers, they were then “convinced” to come back to live here. They agreed, only on the condition that at least two or three internationals would be here at all times. The organisation called CCPT took on the commitment of keeping at least three people here at all times.

Today we are breaking this rule as J. leaves early in the morning and we all hope that it will go unnoticed in the outpost on the hill. I am assured by CCPT that two people will come tonight, so at least this place will be left with just one international for less than 24 hours.

Being the only one here then, I decide against going to the school today and remain instead contactable in the flat and surroundings in case anything happens.

A woman on her own doesn’t seem to get as many invitations, or maybe the villagers get too worried to think about social occasions, when they ask me if I’m on my own and I say yes.

Just as I am getting ready for the English lesson I promised two days ago, there is a knock on the door of the international flat. It would not be the first time that the Israeli Army tries to get in the flat so I get on alert mode immediately. There is a second knock as gentle or more than the first one and I relax a bit. The caller is a Palestinian young man with a boy, who, when I open the door, wants to invite us to his house, down in Aqraba. In normal circumstances I would have invited them in but one strict rule is that Palestinians are not allowed in this flat, same as Israelis are not allowed. The young man seems to understand even before I attempt to explain it. He explains he is from Aqraba but now lives in the United States, where he is studying in University. Now he is on vacation visiting his family and is leaving tomorrow, and his family would like to invite us for dinner, while he is here. I tell him I’m on my own but even if I wasn’t, we wouldn’t go for dinner as far away as Aqraba, leaving Yanoun on its own. He seems to be stuck in my first phrase: “Are you here on your own?”, he asks, with his eyes wide open. I say yes but quickly add, “I’m expecting two more people tonight”. He still points out, “you shouldn’t be here on your own”.

I tell him I need to visit one of the village families in five minutes and he leaves. I put on my shoes and go to the house of the girl I am going to help with her English. Her mother receives me, looking worried. “Are you on your own?” – she asks dryly. It seems news travel quick, I guess like in any other village. It has been a few hours since J. left and no one has yet come in his place. I explain that some one is expected to arrive today but she just continues to look worried.

I answer her daughter’s English doubts as best as I can while we have some light dinner and then I return to the flat, which does indeed feel lonely.

A few hours later C. and X., from CCPT, turn up in a private taxi. I sincerely welcome the company and I update them about the past, fortunately uneventful, days.

X. goes to bed and C. stays up, and he explains to me what I partly knew, that we have momentarily covered for CCPT here so they could all go to this Palestine-wide meeting. Meeting that is now over. They, C. and X., will now be here for a few weeks at least, maybe months.

He explains that some people stay here in Yanoun for three months, which is the full length of CCPT people’s stay in Palestine. I ask him how come so many people manage to stay for so long. He says CCPT is an ecumenical program, carried out by a union of different Christian churches, and it is most successful in Sweden and the United States. Indeed most people we have met from the CCPT are Swedish. “And people’s jobs?”, I ask. He explains that the norm is that people do usually get their jobs back in Sweden. I look at him in envy and wonder aloud if I could get into something like this, and he points out that the Roman Catholic Church does not participate in this.

The conversation moves on to how we are assimilating the experience and we of course talk about the cultural differences. He tells me about a small incident once between a bunch of young Palestinian boys, a female international and himself. The femail international had been in Palestine longer than him The boys stretched out their hands to the girl, smiling, trying to shake hands with her, and she refused, without a word. He thought at the time that his companion was being rude to the boys so he shook all their hands. When the moment had passed, he asked the girl why she had been so rude, and she explained that it was them that had been rude. The Palestinian rule is that a man does not attempt to touch or shake hands with a woman unless she makes the first move – this we have all been told. To make such an attempt is to consider her an “easy girl”, and to insist in stretching his hand is outright insulting. So the boys were actually calling her a woman with low morals, and the fact that they were all smiling showed that all they intended to do was to make fun of her. Therefore her reaction, refusing to shake hands and smile, was the correct one.

I share with him this thought that Palestinian men seem to think we western women are all what they would call prostitutes, because they think we are like the women that the western mainstream media, specially Hollywood films, portray. And we’ve seen that Hollywood films sell well in local television.

C. shows contempt for this. He relates this to the Palestinian complaint that western people think they are terrorists just because the media portray them as such, then they themselves buy into the media stereotypes.

He suggests watching one of the films he’s got on DVD and we choose “War Lord” with Nicolas Cage. Cage’s character fancies a woman that he has only seen in street posters. After he gets to know her, it takes three scenes to see them both in bed.

After the film C. goes to the men’s room to sleep. I stay up packing trying to not make too much noise – tomorrow morning I am getting the school shuttle and leaving Yanoun.

It usually takes me a few minutes of meditating or simply letting my mind travel before I actually fall asleep. Maybe that is why I am the only one in the flat to hear X. moan from the other room in his sleep. I walk to their door, half-open it and whisper “are you ok?” He says nothing. I imagine he is too embarrassed to say anything and prefers to just shut up, or maybe I have not even woken him up, so I return to my bed.

A few minutes later, he starts to shout in desperation, almost crying, but the kind of cry that one does with their mouths shut, when they have something or someone keeping their mouth shut. I walk to the men’s room wondering if C. is just not hearing, not caring, or too doubtful as to what to do. Or maybe just too fast asleep

I walk to X.’s bed and I continue whispering. His shouts grow louder and more desperate and I decide it is time to wake him up. I touch him on the shoulder and he screams in panic and his body shakes violently, his arms just want to hit whatever it is that is attacking him, hitting just me, randomly, while his body shakes, and my arms try to stop his hitting me. I scream, “it’s me!! wake up!!!” He wakes up, stops waving his arms around and looks at me in wonder. I just manage to say “You were having a nightmare. Are you ok?” and he says something like, “Yeah, I am, now”.

He explains that he used to have always the same nightmare, some one keeping him down and him trying to shout, but no sound coming out of his throat… But it has been many years now that he used to have this nightmare, and it is only now, here in Palestine that he is having it again.

I guess this stress that we all have and we never talk about it getting on us all, noticing or not. The stress the Palestinians are having, and the damages it will cause, I’m sure I can not even imagine it.