Monday, August 18, 2014

Books: Palestinian Walks

Have you gone back to the place where you spent your childhood, after many number of years? When you visited your old neighborhood, did you have to search harder into your memory to find the familiar land marks? Did you feel unsettled at the changes brought in your neighborhood in the name of progress by the hand dealt by time? If you have answered yes to all the above questions, then this book Raja Shehadeh will interest you. It is more dramatic than your visit to the old neighborhood. Here, the author is visiting and revisiting his country which is no longer recognizable and is becoming increasingly restrictive.

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian who is chronicling seven walks on the hills surrounding his village, Ramallah. These seven walks are undertaken at different points in the time. The walk chronicles the beauty of the land, the then political events and the effect of the turbulent times on the author poignantly. For Raja Shehadeh, it is a sarha. Sarha means a man wanders aimlessly without any restrictions on time and place. Essentially a walk without a plan. It also means letting yourself go. Over the period of time, Raja continues to have abundant time on his side but the same cannot be said about the place. More and more restrictions are imposed on where a sarha can be undertaken by the political events and policies affecting this region.

Even the least newspaper-savvy ones among us has known there is a conflict in this region. Most of us attribute it to religion. This is where Raja Shehadeh has a difference in opinion. For him, this has nothing to do with religion. It is colonialism. It can also be termed as a real-estate scam. The land of the natives have been acquired in the name of expropriation. There is no plan or intent for integrating the occupied territories which creates an imbalance. On top of it, there is step-brotherly treatment of the people in the occupied territories. The construction of new settlements is destroying the natural beauty of the area. Also how the different settlements are linked together is another way to drive out the original inhabitants in the occupied territories.

There is another misconception in the minds of people who are not from the region. Why do people in this area fight for this a piece of land in the desert? This is thwarted when you read through Raja Shehadeh's description of the wadis. The valley is fertile and also beautiful with a multi-colored spread and graceful animals which will sooth our eyes and heart. The rage of the author is clearly evident in the writing. This is evident from the author's confrontation with an Israeli settler in one of his walks. This also makes us feel helpless since there is nothing the outside world can do lessen the rage and pain. It is no longer the peaceful land where Raja used to take sarha. Now, both sides have made the valleys a dangerous place to stroll.

The book offers no solution. But it is an eye opener to the conflict in the area especially for the uninitiated.



Tags: Books,Raja Shehadeh,Palestine,Israel


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8 comments:

  1. I really loved the idea of this book. I am definitely going to read it. Thanks for the lovely review.

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    1. The premise is interesting. The rage and circumstances described in the book is also saddening at the same time.

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  2. A different approach to the Palestinian problem..sounds really intriguing..nice review... :-)

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    1. More like a different perspective for us. The author is a Palestinian and has been living there throughout what he calls it, occupation.

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  3. Thanks to a book that I'd read sometime back, I read about the struggles in Palestine. But it was only when I read Kite Runner, I realized how painful it would have been for someone to return to their native land, after years, as a foreigner and recollect memories of the gone days, specially when they did not leave out of their own will, but forced to flee.

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    1. In this book, the author has not returned to his homeland. He has been living in the same village. He is going on the same walks he has done in the past. However, he is not able to go as freely as in the past because of the political changes in the land.

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  4. hmmm a good book it seems. Thanks a lot for sharing. added to the list of books I want to read.

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