‘…People should be encouraged to walk in the hills. It will increase their attachment to their country.’ Words spoken by Palestinian writer, lawyer, walker Raja Shehadeh, in conversation with a Palestinian Governor, who is trying to persuade him hill-walking is too dangerous after Shehadeh has been caught in a shooting incident in the valley just behind his house.
We might say something similar about encouragement to walk in the benign hills of Britain where the worst you might fear is the guns of deer or grouse shooters, never likely to be aimed at walkers in harassment. As access to our hills becomes enshrined in law, access to land on foot by Palestinians is shrinking and distorted by the building of walls, Jewish settlements, roads, prohibitions and a general sense of danger.
Palestinian Walks is a sad, sometimes embittered account, of the frustrated link between walking the land and belonging. With powerful evocations of the political situation and the spectacular, loved beauty of the hills which contain for the writer his past, his culture, his sense of freedom as a walker and a civilian, there is a terrible sense of erosion of this link we ourselves take for granted. The book records a series of walks through a ‘vanishing landscape’ over a 26 year period which chart the developments in one man’s relationship to the land and to his country through the redrawing of maps, the collision of two versions of history.
A walking book like no other I know. It demonstrates what a serious matter walking in the land close to our own homes can be.