Benjamin Ladraa arrives in Belgrade. (Sami Manna).
(photo credit: SAMI MANNA)
Benjamin Ladraa, a 25-year-old Swede, began a 4,800-kilometer journey last summer from Sweden to the Palestinian territories in order to raise awareness for the Palestinian cause.
When he set out on August 5, 2017, Ladraa estimated the trip through Syria, Turkey and Jordan, as well as many European countries, would take a year.
Regarding the dangers in Syria, he told The Jerusalem Post, “I will try to make it through Syria but it depends on how much war there is.
I am a bit concerned about that part, of course, but there aren’t many alternatives.”
He said the goal of the walk was to “shine a light and bring attention to the situation and hopefully inspire more people to do something about the occupation.” He purposely chose to start on the 100th year anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
On Tuesday, he asked to relay a message to the Israeli people through the Post, saying: “We all need to work together to achieve peace.”
“What the IDF is doing in occupied Palestine is to enforce a system of segregation with the many crimes it entails,” he said, then cited testimonies by soldiers from the organization “Breaking the Silence.”
Ladraa is walking equipped with nothing but a backpack full of camping gear and a Palestinian flag. He tracks his progress on social media, where he posted an update on February 6 saying he arrived in Serbia, the eighth country on his journey.
He has a Facebook page with thousands of followers, as well as an Instagram account, where he posts updates and photos of his journey using the hashtag #walktoPalestine.
Ladraa quit his job and sold all his belongings in order to go on the journey. He was inspired after a three-week trip he took to the West Bank convinced him he had to “do something to raise awareness about human-rights violations in Palestine.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ladraa said: “I was shocked by what I saw there, seeing all the walls, soldiers walking along the streets carrying M-16 machine guns.
I heard stories about 300 children in prisons, raids in homes.”
Ladraa tries to contact media along the way and give lectures about his cause and his trip wherever he can. He invites people to join him for segments of the walk and forgoes his camping gear in order to crash on locals’ couches whenever possible, thus getting his message across to audiences in each city he visits.
Ladraa continued his message to Israelis by saying, “The Palestinian people are your neighbors, and as one who has met many Palestinians and discussed these topics, I can assure you that they yearn for peace with their neighbors, the Israelis. Walls, segregation and occupation is not the answer.”
“All I hope for with this is that one day the needless suffering of the people living in the holy land will stop,” he said.