Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape

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Simon and Schuster, Jun 3, 2008 - History - 224 pages
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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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Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape

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Palestinian human rights activist Shehadeh (Strangers in the House: Coming of Age in Occupied Palestine) spent most of his adult life as a lawyer trying to prevent Jewish settlement development in the ... Read full review

Contents

The Pale God of the Hills
1
The Albina Case
41
Illusory Portals
98
Monasteries in the Desert
130
And How Did You Get Over It?
156
An Imagined Sarha
178
Acknowledgments
199
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Page xv - ... them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate the miraculous bread sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes. Palestine is desolate and unlovely.
Page xvi - The city of Emanuel, situated 440 meters above sea level, has a magnificent view of the coastal plain and the Judean Mountains. The hilly landscape is dotted by green olive orchards and enjoys a pastoral calm.

About the author (2008)

Raja Shehadeh is the author of the highly praised Strangers in the House and When the Birds Stopped Singing. 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.

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