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Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 3, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (June)
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From The New Yorker

A work of passionate polemic, journeying, history, and autobiography, this highly original consideration of the Palestinian-Israeli issue is structured around a series of vigorous, attentive hikes through the occupied territories. Shehadeh, a lawyer and human-rights activist who lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah, gives the reader, accustomed to the point-counterpoint of daily journalism, a personal sense of one man’s attachment to his land and of a people’s feelings of loss and uncertainty as more settlements are constructed and reconciliation drifts farther from view. Shehadeh is firm in his views of Israeli policy, but he is also an open soul, and his final walk in the book is with an Israeli––a moving encounter in a volume that, in the Palestinian literature of hope and fortitude, ranks with Sari Nusseibeh’s memoir, "Once Upon a Country."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416569669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416569664
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By missoulamissoula on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've walked in Israel and the West Bank before the Intifadas, before the barriers, and subsequently tried to make some sense of the mistakes and the historical horror show that has occurred. I think that the Arabic term "al Naqba", the catastrophe, truly best states what has happened, and what continues for all those who live there.
For everyone who shares the author's love of the land or has any respect for human dignity, this book will make you despair over the tragedy of it all.
Some books on the subject have challenged me, all have upset me, but none have effected me as viscerally as these personal ruminations on the irretrievable loss of the landscape itself.
It's beautifully written. Read it and weep.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Giant Panda on May 18, 2009
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None of the dozens of books I have read about Palestine approaches this in its depth and thoughtfulness. This is not a history of who did this, and who did that. Rather it is a personal story about the connection of one Palestinian man to the fast changing natural landscape of the land he inhabits. This could be read as a travel book documenting journeys into the Biblical landscape. What makes it deeper than that is the inner journeys the author is not afraid to share with us as he takes us on the walk. The book is informed by Shihadeh's decades of knowledge of the land, as well as his legal experience in defending it. It is a small book that is very heavy in content, thought, and feeling.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Winchell M. Craig Jr. on October 15, 2008
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An extraordinary book describing the desecration of Palestine by the Israeli government. It is a poignant memoir of a time past, beautifully written and pregnant with emotion.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Burton on January 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I recently read and adored "Palestinian Walks" by Raja Shehadeh (available in paperback), nonfiction, about a Palestinian lawyer who enjoys walking in the hills above his home in Ramallah and writes about the changes he's seen over four decades of ambling. I learned more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from reading this lovely book than from anything else I've ever read!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on February 25, 2009
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Raja Shehadeh's writing brings the land of Palestine to life. Excellent. I could not put this book down. Everyone who cares about the mideast should read this book. As other reviewers have said, What a tragedy that this landscape is disappearing.

On a positive note, this book is a real treat to the senses. The beauty of the land comes to life. very, very good!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2009
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...what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of the land as it lay this way and that."

So said Annie Dillard, at the beginning of her autobiography, "An American Childhood." Others have felt the same way, from Cezanne's obsession with Mont St. Victoire, to even myself, and the light on a certain mountain in Vietnam's Binh Dinh province, which I hoped to be able to recall clearly, 25 years after my first encounter with it. Shehadeh's sentiments are strongly similar; he has a deep attachment to the land of his birth, how it lays this way and that. In his first of six stories in this book, he introduces the concept of "sarha," an Arabic word that means to roam freely, at will, without restraint. Throughout his life he has enjoyed taking long hikes in his native hills; his prose reflects this profoundly moving and therapeutic pleasure. Unlike Pittsburgh, or Provence, or even south central Vietnam, the topography that has given Shehadeh so much pleasure is rapidly changing, the result of individuals who believe they have a higher priority right to the land, and reinforce their belief with endless concrete, leveling hilltops for their settlements, and paving roads straight through them, instead of following the contours. At the same time they are building walls, more walls, more barriers that restrict Shehadeh, and his fellow Palestinians' access to the land of their birth. Though he does not literally say it, the entire book echoes, with a slight paraphrase, the words of Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Netanyahu, tear down these walls."

Each of the six stories is solid, and well-written, but my favorite is the second one, "The Albina Case.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Batarseh on May 25, 2009
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The story evoked memories of my hikes as a youngster. I recalled the hills and wild flowers and drinking out of holes in the rocks. The destruction of the natural beauty of the land is a tragedy.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Olson on March 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
I loved reading this book, even though of course it made me sad and furious at times. I was lucky enough to live in Palestine for two and a half years during the aughts, and what very few people outside of the Middle East understand about Palestine is how gorgeous and varied the landscape is. For such a tiny area, there's so much going on, everything from gushing springs to ancient desert, idyllic ruins to terraced olive groves and almond trees that bloom white in spring.

I wish I was in Palestine now to take in the spring, the explosion of vibrant green and the vivid colors of wildflowers popping out from between every stone.

Shehadeh knows this landscape better than most, which I have happily hiked for hours. Including the almost inevitable brush with settlers, soldiers, Walls, checkpoints, settlements, and military installations. Hiking Palestine is uplifting to the spirit, and then crushing to the soul when you see the destruction the Israelis have wrought. Shehadeh captures these feelings perfectly, subtly, poignantly.

Highly recommended.
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