Why I’m walking from Sweden to Palestine

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By: Benjamin Ladraa / Source: TRT World / The Dawn News / March 12, 2018

The road to justice is long, requiring allies and increased awareness of the Israeli occupation. Benjamin’s journey takes him to communities across Europe large and small, taking the first step towards justice.

The year 2017 was an auspicious one which marked the centenary of the Balfour declaration, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, 50th anniversary of the total occupation of Palestine and the 10th anniversary of the siege on Gaza.

Each one of these events represents a tragedy that is difficult to describe in words and are all a part of the gradual destruction of the Palestinian people.

Having pursued a musical career for most of my life, Palestine and Israel was not really a topic I knew much about. After meeting some Palestinians through my part-time job at the Red Cross and hearing their stories I became curious and started reading about the occupation and eventually I decided to visit.

What I witnessed left me shocked to the core.

Reading human rights reports and listening to lectures about the abuses taking place there is one thing, but seeing it with your own eyes is something completely different.

Segregated streets where Palestinians can’t drive, endless walls preventing Palestinian movement, Palestinian shops closed by force.

No matter where I turned the signs of Israeli domination over Palestinian life were omnipresent.

No matter who I met, everyone told me about the suffering under the occupation. The one thing I kept hearing from people when talking about the way forward was a melancholic “I just want to live.”

Returning home, all I could do was to sit at my kitchen table and cry for several days. The injustice I had witnessed was overwhelming. What I could do to help seemed beyond me. Pulling myself together I started to join every demonstration and conference I could find. I tried to talk to everyone I knew about what was going on and when over a thousand Palestinian political prisoners launched a hunger strike I organised a group of people and in solidarity went on hunger strike with them to raise awareness.

After many activities and speaking to a lot of people about the human rights violations committed by the Israeli forces I began realising that just as I had previously been unaware of what was being done to the Palestinians, so were most of the people that I met and talked to. I don’t blame them.

I went through the Swedish school system and came out knowing close to nothing about Palestine. I decided then that the most effective thing I could do to propel the change that was so urgently needed was to reach as many people as possible, and share the stories from Palestine with them.

Benjamin Ladraa is walking from Sweden across Europe all the way to Palestine to raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Benjamin Ladraa is walking from Sweden across Europe all the way to Palestine to raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. (Benjamin Ladraa)

This is why I decided to walk 5,000 kilometres from Sweden to Palestine, carrying the Palestinian flag with me. I have been on the road for over 200 days, walked over 2,000 kilometres and talked to everyone I met on the way about what I saw in Palestine.

I’m contacting TV, radio and the local news in every city I arrive in to tell them my story. I am reaching out to universities, organisations and local bars asking if they would host me for a lecture where I show pictures and speak about the human rights violations being committed.

Of course, I’m not naive enough to think that this journey alone will end the suffering of the Palestinian people.

What I think is that when enough of us start to really explore our limits and start to play an active part in change, the more progress we will see. When we take to the streets, when we demand accountability and when we mount enough pressure on Israel to stop violating human rights, then progress towards a sustainable peace between the two will be made.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should walk to Palestine but I am suggesting that we all should take a look in the mirror and ask how we can contribute to a better world.

I believe we should be the change we want to see in the world. The sooner we make demands, the sooner power will concede.

As Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

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