Walks in the West Bank
The New York Times
August 13, 2008
By ABBY AGUIRRE
RAMALLAH, West Bank — There is an Arabic word for Raja Shehadeh’s pastime.
“Sarha is to roam freely, at will, without restraint,” he writes in “Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape,” an account of six walks in the West Bank, which won this year’s Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent award for political writing, and was published by Scribner in the United States in June. “A man going on a sarha wanders aimlessly, not restricted by time and place.”
Of course, it is difficult not to be restricted by time and place in the occupied territories, where movement is everyday more limited by a growing number of Israeli-built fences, walls, barriers, checkpoints, settlements and the separate roads constructed to link them. But Mr. Shehadeh — a lawyer and founder of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, who apart from a sojourn in London for law school has lived his entire life in Ramallah — still tries.
One recent walk began on the side of a road near the village of Ein Sinya, a short drive from the city center. Mr. Shehadeh took measured steps down a trail lined with sage, Syrian thistle, flowering oregano and wild artichoke. On either side rose limestone-buttressed terraces of olive trees.