Jayyus, with just under 4000 Palestinian residents, is the kind of place where everyone says hello as we walk along the main street.
They don’t know us yet, of course, but for the last 10 years successive groups of Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) have lived here for three months. People are amazingly hospitable, and invite us into their homes for meals and glasses of tea. My colleagues come from Brazil, the Philippines, and Sweden.
The land here is fertile, and the farmers have installed effective irrigation systems to water it.
Israel built a separation barrier in 2002, arguing that it was necessary for security reasons. Of course, Israel must protect its population. But much of the barrier is built on privately-owned Palestinian land; in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the route of the separation barrier is illegal.
This ruling has not helped a man I met today, who lives in the village of Izbat at Tabib.
Four fifths of his land is on the other side of the separation barrier or has been swallowed up in the construction process. The Israeli authorities refuse to give him a permit to go through a gate in the barrier to work the part of his land that could still be cultivated. He has an acre or two left nearer his home, on his village’s side of the barrier, but now that is threatened by a proposed new road. When land is taken in this way, no compensation is paid.
His situation is extremely difficult, as his land is his family’s only source of income. But he is a fighter, not with his fists or stones or guns or bombs, but with his commitment to stay in his country, in the land to which he belongs.