The Masar Ibrahim is no ordinary walking path. This long-distance trail wends its way through 321km of the occupied West Bank, from the olive groves and fruit orchards of Jenin in the north to the wind-whipped desert of Hebron in the south.
The trail, a partner of the regional Abraham Path, aims to create opportunities for people from different places, cultures and religions to meet, talk and walk together. Hundreds of visitors from all over the world come every year to hike the trail, which was bolstered in 2014 by a $2.3m World Bank grant that facilitated waymarking, guide training and better maps, among other improvements.
But illegal Israeli settlements surround the path on all sides, with guides recounting stories of villagers being terrorised by settlers. They take walkers to meet farmers whose goats and olive trees have been attacked.
“This village feels like it is besieged,” guide Anwar said on the approach to Aqraba, a community southeast of Nablus. Surrounded by towering olive trees, their trunks fat and gnarled, the village has an Arabic name that means “female scorpion”.
“There are places where we would like to walk, but we cannot, because of the settlements,” he added.
Despite the challenges of the Israeli occupation, community-based tourism aims to help build Palestinian society by creating jobs, building confidence among locals and preserving heritage. Foreign visitors lodge overnight in Palestinians’ homes and share food, stories and laughter.