Jerusalem24 – Haya Rimawi
“There’s a hike, want to go?”
“The weather is nice, let’s sign up for a hike on Friday.”
“Spring has begun, lets go on a hike!”
In recent years, the culture of hiking has begun to spread greatly in Palestinian society, and the youth groups that organize hiking trips to various Palestinian areas have increased, from mountainous areas to plains to deserts. These hikes are organized by different youth groups.
“We used to go out with groups on hikes. I loved nature and trails a lot. That’s why we decided to establish our own group,” says Amal Khalaf, one of the founders of the “Earth Lovers” group, which was founded in 2017 by “Amal and Ali” who combined their passion for nature and love of exploration. Amal says that “It was not easy to establish the group, we started it with 27 people, and in just two weeks there was only two of us, but with our insistence, we were able to complete this group to include more than 1200 people.”
The “Earth Lovers” group is a non-profit group that organizes weekly hiking trips in different areas of the West Bank, and their paths range from-easy, difficult to very difficult. While the number of participants in the trip varies according to region, with the number ranging between 40-100 people in each trip. Today, the group is in the process of organizing their 88th track.
Amal says, “We draw the path before we see it, and then we hike with a small group first, to make sure of the nature of the path and draw its map, we are not able to go with a large group of a region that we don’t know of.” Amal also added, “I encourage people who love a challenge to participate.” She affirmed that during all the hiking trips there are guides at the front of the group, in the middle and end. There is also a paramedic always present, and the group is planning to organize training courses for guides and paramedics for any of the participants to join.
Amal also states that the primary goal of the group is to introduce the participants of the natural beauty of Palestine and encourage them to reach new areas. This holds especially true for natural areas that have become destinations for Israeli settlers, therefore it is necessary to affirm the presence of Palestinians at these locales. “We have confronted settlers several times,” says Amal, “and once the Israeli military forced us to change the destination of a hike.”
Joining the “Earth Lovers” group does have some requirements. Amal says, “the conditions of joining the group are clear and you are not allowed to violate them.” She lists by saying, “you must boycott Israeli products, you must have mutual respect with other members of the group, not to throw garbage during the trips, not to destroy plants or hunt animals.”
Link to the group’s Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/Loversoftheearth