Saturday, January 16, 2021

Bethlehem Runs Rings Around the Wall

Juicebox Gallery

By John Space - April 22, 2013
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES]
Tags: [Bethlehem] [freedom of movement] [marathon] [Apartheid Wall]

Photos by Lazar Simeonov.


On Sunday, roughly 500 people ran in the Right to Movement Marathon, the first marathon to take place in the West Bank. The marathon was held in Bethlehem, a city that bumps up against the Apartheid Wall, a fact which presented runners and race organizers with unique challenges. 

Zuher Tmeza, the coordinator for Right to Movement's Information Committee, said the group was unable to find enough space for runners to run a full 42-kilometer marathon, and those participating in the full marathon had to instead run the half marathon twice.

"We didn't find a full area to have the marathon," he said. "Area A [under control of the Palestinian Authority] is very small and in Area C you can't organize a marathon."

The race, which was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, featured Palestinians and international participants from 21 different countries, all of whom came to support the right of Palestinians to move freely in their own country. The winner was a Palestinian man from Jericho, Abdel Nasser Awajme.

Alison Smith, a runner from England who participated as part of a group brought to the West Bank by the Amos Trust, said international runners gained a new understanding of the injustices caused by Israel's separation barrier.

I'm dedicating this run to the prisoners, to have them free so next time they can run with us

"Where we live, we can run 26 miles and no one questions it," she said. "Here we had to run four times there and back to get a full marathon."

Amos Trust spokesperson Katie Hagley said the organization brought a group to rebuild homes in Battir before bringing a group to Bethlehem for the marathon.

"They've been here three days, and I tell you, when they leave, they'll love Palestine," she said.

Right to Movement's Tmeza said the race made a powerful statement about the effects of Israel's apartheid regime.

"Today we send a good message, very clear, that Palestinian people deserve this right… They need to live like other people but because of checkpoints and the wall we have limited rights."

Palestinian runner Anton Shamaly, from Bethlehem's Beit Sahour neighborhood, said running along the wall was emotionally as well as physically challenging.

"Sometimes you get bad feelings because you're so close to the wall," he said. "It's something you feel in your heart."

Shamaly said he ran in the marathon because he believes in the right to freedom for all Palestinians.

"It's about freedom of movement, so I have the freedom to walk where I can go," he said. "I'm dedicating this run to the prisoners, to have them free so next time they can run with us."

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