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Sabbath Day – Palestinian Walks

January 12, 2018

20150502_145528Photo: St. Georges Monastery, The West Bank, Palestine

Sabbath: One Day a Week to Reconnect with What Really Matters
Thursday, January 11

I have just finished the absolutely beautiful and haunting book, Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape, by Raja Shehadeh. The author has spent a lifetime walking the hills and wadis surrounding Ramallah where his family has resided for hundreds of years. An activist and land-rights lawyer whose career spans the occupation (he is the founder of the human rights organization Al Haq), Shehadeh has his narrative built around six walks, spanning several decades, which he has taken alone or with friends. On his recollection of these walks the readers is given an intimate an personal tour of the the natural environment of the West Bank and the changes it has suffered through forty years of Israeli control (the book was published in 2007). As local temperatures in White Plains dropped to single digits this week, reading about Raja’s hikes has allowed me to dream vividly of hiking myself in the hills of Palestine, which I have plans to do later this spring.

While I continue to digest the many moving and deeply reflective passages where I have turned the corners down on the pages, making the top corner of the book significantly thicker than the rest of it, I contemplate where this book belongs on my bookshelf in my library. My first inclinations (and its original location) is with my books on Israel-Palestine, books of a historical, political and theological nature. But then I think it belongs on the shelf of books about walking and hiking, in the company of Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust and Kathleen Dean Moore’s Riverwalking, or perhaps with the travelogues of John Muir, Bill Bryson, Jeff Alt and Cheryl Strayed. In its close observation of a specific place, known intimately over time, it perhaps shares the most with my shelf of nature writing, with books like David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. Palestinian Walks has touched me and inspired me in a way that I associate with Belden Lane’s The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Landscapes, and Jim Corbett’s Goatwalking: A Guide to Wildland Living, although it does not confess any defined tradition of spirituality beyond the land itself. Reading this books has led me both to reflect on my first trip to Israel and to anticipate my upcoming trip to Palestine, and so at present it is shelved with my travel books. Again and again I have paused to remember so many particular walks I have taken in beautiful and so sacred places closer to home. Perhaps it belongs on my shelf of formative, and so uncategorizable, books. 

Much of the rest of the day was spent quietly: exercising, practicing Arabic, drinking coffee, shuttling August to the nature center and to lacrosse practice, and working with him on his homework. I will lay down to sleep shortly feeling richly blessed and a great sense of peace.

Peace be with you.
السلام عليكم   שלום עליכם   Ειρήνη   Pax vobiscum   Pace   Hasîtî   शान्ति   Barış   和平   Мир   ᚠᚱᛁᚦ

One Comment leave one →
  1. planehpn permalink
    January 13, 2018 4:45 am

    hi jeff   how is your wife nowell doing, i hope she is ok   how is john doing also i am enjoying retierment a lot bruce  

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