Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa is making his way toward the Serbian capital of Belgrade, six months after he started his walk to Palestine to raise awareness of the on-going occupation.
Ladraa has travelled through Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia as well as journeying briefly back to Sweden to spend the holiday period with his family. He is now starting a four week long stretch from Zagreb in Croatia to Serbia.
The activist has been kept busy with numerous appointments during his walk. In Slovakia, he was invited to the Palestinian embassy where he met with the ambassador as well as several officials. He also took the opportunity to give interviews to Slovak newspapers about the reasoning for his trip and the situation of people in Palestine.
In Austria’s second largest city Graz, Ladraa delivered numerous lectures to the public, including a talk to university students learning Arabic.
In Zagreb, Ladraa was also invited to the Croatian parliament and later held a lecture on the ongoing human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. He was additionally interviewed by Croatian MP Ivan Pernar about life under occupation and the importance of Palestinian activism.
Despite the difficult winter conditions, Ladraa has continued to make his journey with only his trolley and the Palestinian flag, often walking through flooded roads as a result of melted snow. He has largely stayed in a tent when on the road unless offered alternative accommodation.
However, Ladraa has come under attack while making his journey, with a man in Slovakia trying to break his flagpole.
“The sick part is that he had his daughter in the car watching him attack me. I wonder what values she will have growing up. I’m alright though and I’ll keep walking,” he said in a Facebook post.
In December, Ladraa was also apprehended by police who surrounded him with their weapons drawn after someone reported him as a suspected terrorist.
“I didn’t feel very safe with guns pointed at me. It ended with them threatening to take my flag if I didn’t put it away. This was the third time people threatened to take my flag,” he said.
Ladraa notes on Facebook that he has been frequently visited by the police since then, posting photos of police vehicles on Facebook with the caption: “The almost daily visit by the state’s hired thugs. He [the policeman] tried to intimidate me and make me ‘confess’ who I really was, how I really got into the country and what I’m really doing.”
He has walked over 1,500 kilometres so far and has listed the various towns he will be passing through in the coming weeks in an effort to meet more people and escape the cold winter nights.
The 24-year-old chose to make the journey to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which provided international legitimacy for the Zionist project which led to the subsequent creation of the State of Israel and the displacement of nearly one million Palestinians in 1948.