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Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscapeby Raja Shehadeh
Synopses & Reviews
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. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; 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. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; 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 andlt;iandgt;Palestinian Walks,andlt;/iandgt; Raja Shehadeh's elegy for his lost footpaths becomes a heartbreaking metaphor for the deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.
"In 60 years of fighting, Israelis and Palestinians often seem to ignore the pernicious impact that decades of warfare have had on the contested land itself. Not so Palestinian human rights lawyer and avid walker Shehadeh (Strangers in the House), who has spent most of his adult life watching the West Bank — territory recognized internationally as part of a future Palestinian state — carved up by Israeli roads and settlements. The region's vistas have been a distant second consideration to the needs of Israeli nationalism and security concerns, perceived and real. Shehadeh's memoir is profoundly pained, his anguish over Israeli occupation policies palpable, as he lovingly sketches a landscape that is rapidly disappearing. 'Our land was being transformed before our eyes,' he writes, 'and a new map was being drawn.... We had become temporary residents of Greater Israel.' The son of Aziz Shehadeh, the first Palestinian to call publicly for a two-state solution, Shehadeh's anger isn't reserved only for Israeli occupation policies — he also rails against Palestinian negotiators he believes favor political expediency over territorial integrity or environmental concerns — and he searches genuinely for common ground with Israelis. Ultimately, though, Shehadeh is too honest to offer much hope, comforting himself only with the understanding that human realities come and go, 'but the land remains.' (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
andlt;bandgt;Raja Shehadehandlt;/bandgt; is the author of the highly praised andlt;Iandgt;Strangers in the Houseandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;Iandgt;When the Birds Stopped Singing.andlt;/iandgt; A Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah, he is a founder of the pioneering human rights organization Al-Haq, an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists.
Table of Contents
WALK 1: The Pale God of the Hills
WALK 2: The Albina Case
WALK 3: Illusory Portals
WALK 4: Monasteries in the Desert
WALK 5: And How Did You Get Over It?
WALK 6: An Imagined Sarha
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History and Social Science » Middle East » Palestine