'Awarta, Yanoun: Sites holy for Muslims, free-fun for Jews

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Galia Sh., Tzviya Sh., Irit S. Nurit (report) Mustafa (translator)

Yanoun – a planned meeting with R., head of the local council

Yanoun now has an energetic village-council chairman who is determined  to promote the interests of the village inhabitants. He says that a vast area around the village is owned by the villagers, holding ownership claim documents since Ottoman times. Even the illegal Israeli settler-colonist outposts on the hills overlooking the village in the north were built on Yanoun land. Hill no. 777 is the closest to Maqam Nabi Nun, located on a hill next to the village’s cultivated lands. Until 1994 the villagers would climb this hill, but since the outposts were created, matters have become complicated. R. says that recently he has submitted a request to the Waqf (Muslim lands authority) in Nablus applying for permission to renovate the holy site of Maqam Nabi Nun inside the village. He is waiting for such permission and will then begin the renovation.

Both the village of Yanoun and the holy site Maqam Nabi Nun are named after the Prophet Jonah (in Arabic – Younes). The Jews believe the site is named after Nun, father of Joshuah. Near the Nakam is a mosque and a Muslim graveyard.  Villagers of Yanoun and Aqraba still frequent the site. Youngsters are in the habit of partying there. On holidays families come there and hand out presents to their children. Threats by settler-colonists and the Israeli army are commonplace in the entire district, not just at the holy site. R. does not differentiate between a settler-colonist and a soldier.

During the olive harvest season they must coordinate their work with the army. Two days a year are allowed for plowing, and 3-4 days for harvesting the olives. R. says that he owns a plot of land east of Yanoun, overlooking the Palestinian Jordan Valley. Although he owns it privately, he cannot access it. He knows that recently settler-colonists have plowed his land and even paved a road there. He has complained about this officially to the PA offices in Nablus.

Note: Although the immediate area of the Maqam has been declared a nature reserve, Yanoun’s council chairman is determined to renovate the site for the sake of the Palestinian inhabitants.

‘Awarta – a planned meeting at the village council

We meet with A., the municipal treasurer. He says that 12,000 dunams of the village lands are now taken over by the Israeli settler-colony of Itamar. Again we heard - this time in the local council - that nearly every night one or more armed settler-colonists arrive from Itamar. They enter the village, harass the villagers but mainly visit the holy graves. These are attributed both to Islamic and to Jewish holy persons. We listed them in detail in our last report. The Zionist movement wishes to attribute everything exclusively to Jews. Not only the Maqams… He smilingly points at the water bottle on the table, as an example. He says that the older generation was interested in tradition and in the Maqams. Before the Israeli Occupation, locals would come to celebrate at the Maqams. This we keep hearing in various villages, referring to different Maqams. At present, interest in the Maqams as receded.

With the Jews, however, on certain dates hundreds of people come to celebrate at the holy men’s graves in ‘Awarta. The villagers are not informed in advance, only when they see the army arriving do they “understand” and fearfully keep indoors. We were told they would like the army to coordinate such an event with the PA so the villagers could be prepared for it and plan the time of their coming home. The actual event itself is not questioned. Has this phenomenon already become a “given”?