IntroductionPalestine rarely makes the news in Indian media. When it does, it is usually because "clashes" or “hostilities” have flared up yet again. Knee-jerk sentiments are often quick to ascribe Palestinians with “terrorism”. The reality is that the Palestinians are an exceptionally warm and welcoming people.

Perceptions about Palestine are too often shaped by lack of information or by propaganda. It is easy to dehumanise those we are ignorant about.

This 10-part series on Palestine consists of photographs from East Jerusalem and the West Bank taken by the author during a visit in early 2018. They convey varied aspects of Palestine’s natural beauty, her ancient and unique history, Palestinian art, education and culture, and the grim realities of their lives under Israeli military occupation.

In part two, we look at antiquity and natural diversity in the West Bank.

[Below: A map of West Bank, Gaza and Israel (L); the West Bank (R). Courtesy: palestinett.org]

Palestine-map

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From hills rising 3,000 feet above sea level in the west to the Dead Sea 1,000 feet below sea level in the east; from the greenery of the western parts to the barren desert of the Jordan valley in the east; from the ancient city of Jericho, continuously inhabited since the end of the last ice age, to the city of Hebron, significant to the three major Abrahamic world religions — all this immense historical and geographical diversity is packed into a land merely 50 percent larger than Goa or three-and-half times the size of Greater London.

This is the West Bank of Palestine.

(Below) Limestone hills of intriguing shapes such as these line the way between the cities of Ramallah and Jericho:

1

Arid hills and lush greenery compete for attention on the outskirts of Jericho:

2

Ruins of Hisham’s Palace near the city of Jericho, built nearly 1,300 years ago:

3

Built 10,000 years ago, the 'Tower of Jericho' is part of a large excavation site in Jericho, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world:

4

Inside the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The grotto it contains is considered the birth place of Jesus Christ:

5

Inside the Ibrahimi mosque in the city of Hebron. One of the oldest continuously used sites of prayer in the world, it is believed to contain the final resting places of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives: the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish and Islamic faiths.

6

Old Town district of the city of Nablus, founded by the Roman Emperor Vespacian more than 1,900 years ago (72 CE):

7

Young olive trees near the city of Salfit. They hold immense emotional value to the Palestinians, many families nurturing these trees over the generations:

8

One of the many weekend hiking trips popular among locals and tourists alike; Central West Bank:

9

Grazing sheep outside a small village in central West Bank:

10

Also read: Sampling the culture and cuisine of Palestine.

See more from the series here

Chirag Dhara is a theoretical physicist-turned-climate change scientist. He is keenly interested in the Palestinian situation, and visited the occupied West Bank for three months in early 2018 in solidarity with the Palestinians. He can be contacted through his Palestine travel blog or Instagram page.

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