Over two decades of turmoil and change in the Middle East, steered via the history-soaked landscape of Palestine. This new edition includes a previously unpublished epigraph in the form of a walk.
When Raja Shehadeh first started hill walking in Palestine, in the late 1970s, he was not aware that he was travelling through a vanishing landscape. These hills would have seemed familiar to Christ, until the day concrete was poured over the flora and irreversible changes were brought about by those who claim a superior love of the land.
Six walks span a period of twenty-six years, in the hills around Ramallah, in the Jerusalem wilderness and through the ravines by the Dead Sea. Each walk takes place at a different stage of Palestinian history since 1982, the first in the empty pristine hills and the last amongst the settlements and the wall. The reader senses the changing political atmosphere as well as the physical transformation of the landscape.
By recording how the land felt and looked before these calamities, Raja Shehadeh attempts to preserve, at least in words, the Palestinian natural treasures that many Palestinians will never know.
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."