Eisa Younis from the village of Jinba

Eisa Younis from the village of Jinba

A short history of the village of Jinba by Eisa Younis, who lives there. For the original interview in Arabic go here. (March 2016)


My name is Eisa Younis  (Eye-sah You – nis) Muhammad. I’m from Khirbet Jinba (Ker-bet Jin-bah). I was born in 1974. Jinba has a long history and there were people living here already during the Roman times thousands of years ago. We have been here since the generation of my great-great-grandparents. Jinba used to be on the path connecting Palestine with Egypt. It has a lot of archeological sites from the Roman period and the Ottoman period. Pilgrims on their way to Saudi Arabia used to come from the north of Palestine and pass by here in the south and they used to take a break here.

In 1948 we had shops here and our sheep were here. When Israel occupied us, they destroyed everything, including houses and archeological sites. Our families fled to Yatta (yah -tah). They came back in 1967, but then the Jews destroyed everything again during the Six Day War. We moved into caves and stayed in them until 1985.

In 1985 the Jews declared this area a closed military zone, they expelled all the people from here and destroyed all the caves.

We left the area for about four years but then we returned against the Jews’ will. They would take our sheep and make us pay heavy fines in order to get them back. In 1999 the situation became better. There were peace activists and people from Taayush who stood with us in solidarity. We appointed a lawyer and the situation improved because people knew better. In the past people didn’t know about lawyers. In 1999 we got an interim court order saying we can stay in the area but cannot build houses. If we built a house from bricks, they would destroy it.

They stopped expelling us. They were not allowed to expel us and at the same time we were not allowed to build houses to live in like the rest of the world. We used to build and they would destroy what we built. These houses don’t cost so much to build, each house is around 5-6 thousand shekels, but when your house is destroyed, it’s as if they destroy part of your life and the emotional price is huge. They came at night and gave us a warning and in the morning they came and destroyed the house. I was having supper at my house knowing that I will not be having my breakfast there anymore.

When they destroyed my house, they destroyed a part of my life. For me, it was more precious than a hotel in Tel Aviv. I knew that the coming days were going to be difficult for us. I wouldn’t mind living in a cave but our children are going to get their education and they will not want the life that I’m living now. This is what frightens me, that they will move to the city, especially since I cannot offer them any work here other than being shepherds.

The difference is that I work here with dignity. I live in dignity with my sheep here, but if I want to work in Israel, then I have to pass through so many checkpoints to arrive to work, to have a soldier sitting behind glass telling me to stand up, lift my arms, lift up your shirt in a very disrespectful way. But here I live in dignity with my sheep.

I feel pain when I remember the people who used to live here and don’t anymore. I wonder where they are and think about how their lives used to be when they were here. If they had stayed, what would they be like? Would they be happy? I feel pain when I think about this.