Travelling along the streets of the occupied West Bank in the seventies and the eighties, there was a pastoral view that caught my imagination. Many kids of all ages were walking to school along the narrow roads. Apparently they had to walk like this for many kilometers. The view was even more surrealistic due to the eye-catching unified school dress that painted each section of the road with different colors and unnatural designs. But what really impressed me at the time was that many of the kids, boys and girls, used the opportunity to read, probably rehearsing their studies.
Like so many other things, I tried to learn this virtue from the West Bank kids. It worked for me very well. Mostly I was reading “The Economist” to keep myself updated with world affairs.
Over the last decade I’m using my dinner break at work to go to the sea shore, walking and reading. Sometimes with long white hair blowing with the wind – I made a strange figure.
Once a police patrol stopped near me and I heard one of them saying: I know this man, he ran away from Tira. Tira, originally Tirat Al-Louz a Palestinian town to the south of Haifa, ethnically cleansed and renamed to Tirat Ha-Carmel, a poor Jewish suburb, is the location of the main local hospital for the mentally ill. I succeeded to make myself calm and normal enough to pass this encounter and go on walking my way.
Read walking became such a central feature of my life that I even wrote a short story about it.
The problems started as the economist’s distribution network in the area stopped functioning. I would make the extra tour from the road to the beach to the books’ shop only to find that the last issue didn’t arrive yet. Try tomorrow, they would say, day after day. Finally I made a subscription to get the magazine by mail. But it didn’t really work either. After an initial grace period the issues were arriving four at a time, three weeks late by average.
Being deprived of my drug, I started reading the paper from my smartphone. It worked wonders. For the first time I could read the paper before readers in London…
Walking and reading my phone completely transformed my public image. As I was walk-reading along the beach, some guy looked at me, saying: Well, these new phones are really indulging… He smiled at me, sharing understandable human weakness.
Finally I became like everybody else.