Walking on the West Bank

Robert Macfarlane

In an essay for our ‘Aliens’ issue, Robert Macfarlane tells of walking in Palestine with his friend, the writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh. Shehadeh has been conducting sarha in the hills of Ramallah, on the West Bank, for more than forty years. As Macfarlane explains, sarha originally meant ‘to let the cattle out to pasture to graze’, but the word has been humanized to suggest the action of a walker who roams without a fixed plan. ‘Wander’, he says, is the closest equivalent in English: ‘a word shadowed by wonder’.

Wandering is increasingly difficult in Ramallah as the open landscape gives way to city sprawl, Israeli army posts and Palestinian militia bases. ‘But Raja still walks,’ Macfarlane writes. ‘As walking becomes less easy, it has become correspondingly more important.’

This series of photos, exclusive to our website, presents a few striking moments from Macfarlane and Shehadeh’s sarha.

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