Magazine article Newsweek

Mine Land

Magazine article Newsweek

Mine Land

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanna Chen

Below lies the sweeping Negev desert. Above, a line of camels saunter across a stretch of land dotted with yellow-flowered tumble thistle and tiny pink sun roses. In the distance, the lights of Arad twinkle as the soft slopes of the Yatir forest melt into the darkness. It's dusk on the 600-mile Israel National Trail, a footpath that ambles from the country's southern border with Egypt all the way north to the edge of Lebanon. It was modeled on the Appalachian Trail, designed as a peaceful retreat from the world. But this is Israel. No oasis of calm can keep out the heat and tension of everyday life completely.

The Israel Trail was first marked in 1995, and it was carefully constructed to sidestep areas of territorial dispute, such as the Golan Heights, West Bank settlements, and even Jerusalem. From one end of the country to the other, it passes ancient ruins and biblical sites, beaches, expansive forests, a desert, and cities. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel says that thousands walk the Israel Trail, or sections of it, every month. Nimrod Barkan, 22, says that while he was completing his mandatory tour in the Israeli military, he would dream of hiking there. "The thought that I would do this trail, that there was an alternative to the constant pressure, kept me going."

But when the land is this sacred--in so many ways and to so many people--it becomes nearly impossible to divorce the shifting political landscape from the one surrounding the trail itself. For some Israelis, hiking the trail is a form of patriotism, of celebrating their land by never leaving it, even for a vacation. "It's not Zionism in its traditional form," says Moti Ben-Chitrit, who's in charge of the trail. "It's more like ahavat haaretz, a love of the country." It's also hard to ignore the fact that less than half a mile away is the green line marking Israel's pre-1967 border. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.