Raja Shehadeh is a passionate hill walker. He enjoys nothing more than heading out into the countryside that surrounds his home. But in recent years, his hikes have become less than bucolic, and sometimes downright dangerous. That is because his home is Ramallah, on the Palestinian West Bank, and the landscape he traverses is now the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel.
In this original and evocative book, we accompany Raja on six walks taken between 1978 and 2006. The earlier forays are peaceful affairs, allowing our guide to meditate at length on the character of his native land, a terrain of olive trees on terraced hillsides, luxuriant valleys carved by sacred springs, carpets of wild iris and hyacinth, and ancient monasteries built more than a thousand years ago.
Shehadeh’s love for this magical place saturates his renderings of its history and topography. But latterly, as seemingly endless concrete is poured to build settlements and their surrounding walls, he finds the old trails are now impassable and the countryside he once traversed freely has become contested ground. He is harassed by Israeli border patrols, watches in terror as a young hiking companion picks up an unexploded missile, and even, on one occasion when accompanied by his wife, comes under prolonged gunfire.
Amid the many and varied tragedies of the Middle East, the loss of a simple pleasure such as the ability to roam the countryside at will may seem a minor matter. But in Palestinian Walks, Raja Shehadeh’s elegy for his lost footpaths becomes a heartbreaking metaphor for the deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.
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Recommend for anyone and everyone
I recommend this book for anyone and everyone. This book is decidedly Palestinian, though not necessarily biased. The author is Palestinian and treats the issue from the perspective of literal walks in nature. I had never thought of the changes to the Palestinian landscapes. This book taught me a lot.
It helped me understand that this issue is a relatively recent issue and helped me realize what life was like before. It also helped me realize that the exact same lawsuits going on today and the exact same processes have been going on for decades. It’s basically the same process just different people and different cities.
The narrator does make some mistakes in the Arabic pronunciation. I suspect his Arabic is like Big Z (possibly a 2nd generation immigrant?). I don’t speak Hebrew so I can’t speak to that. I did speed it up in some areas but 1.5x or less should be good, especially cuz there are a lot of details.
1 person found this helpful
- David M King
2 sides of a cultural clash
informative, current in scope.important to ponder. one of worlds various belief systems traumas..meddling with rightful stewards of ancient revered land by Europeans possessing Israeli passports.
1 person found this helpful