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First Ever Palestinian Marathon: Running to Change West Bank's Image

World  (tags: middle-east, West Bank, Bethlehem, Marathon, sports, freedom, RRight to Movement )

- 1825 days ago -
"It's a strange site to see people run in the West Bank," said runner Dina Khuri, 21, from Beit Sahour. "Usually when people run here it has to do with violence, but this time it's for fun."

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Angelika R (143)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 10:13 am
Photos / Slideshow > here  -"Right to Movement"

BETHLEHEM, Israel — Jesus' traditional birthplace has long been linked to tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. On Sunday, around 1,000 athletes took a step towards transforming Bethlehem's modern image by running in the first official Palestinian marathon.

“It’s a strange site to see people run in the West Bank,” said runner Dina Khuri, 21, from Beit Sahour. “Usually when people run here it has to do with violence, but this time it’s for fun."

Security was tight in the wake of the Boston attacks that killed three and injured more than 170 on Monday. Before the event, organizers said they were "deeply saddened by the news from Boston."

For George Zeidan from Jerusalem, the marathon was not only about fitness.

"Sports (are) my inspiration and my way of identifying myself," he wrote in a blog posted on the marathon website before the race. "I am running for the freedom of Palestine and my people. I am running to inform everybody that we Palestinians are just like everyone else, we run, dance, sing, play, jump, and have fun, not only that but we are also good at it."

The race started and finished at the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the oldest continuously operating Christian church, and took runners in four loops around Bethlehem. Competitors also ran through the Al Ayda and Dheisheh camps, which house 17,700 Palestinian refugees.

Participants passed the barrier separating the West Bank and Israel, which Israelis call the separation wall and Palestinians refer to as the apartheid wall. The turn-around point was an Israeli Army checkpoint on the road leading to Jerusalem.

According to the AFP, the full marathon was won by Abdel Nasser Awajme, a Palestinian from Jericho.

Organizer Signe Fischer said that the main message behind holding the race was to emphasize the importance of freedom of movement.

“The situation here is of stalemate and this marathon is a positive message for people to do something to change things," she said.

Alongside growing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, who have been struggling for years to establish an independent state, have come growing restrictions on their ability to travel into Israel and into the Hamas-controlled enclave of Gaza.

Earlier in the week Israelis refused to allow some 20 runners from Gaza to travel to the race. Gaza residents can only go to the West Bank for "exceptional humanitarian reasons with an emphasis on urgent medical cases," Israeli officials were quoted with saying.

This was likely a big blow to Gaza resident Nader Al-Masri who represented Palestine in the 5,000-meter race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Kit B (276)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 11:18 am

I hope this inspires as many in Israel as it has in the West Bank. It is ridiculous that Nader Al-Masri was not allowed in the marathon. This is exactly the kind of activity that Gaza and the West Bank need to build to dissuade the image that some have of Palestinian people.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 11:40 am
That was a shame to ban him from running! But it is good to see how many internstional runners joined in this event here to show their solidarity!

Angelika R (143)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 11:43 am
What a strong message is in the motto "Right to Movement"!

Henriette M (154)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 12:25 pm
Awesome! Thanks Angie.

Erin R (181)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 6:05 pm
Thanks for posting.

Claudia A (70)
Monday April 22, 2013, 3:18 am
Step by step.
Thank you.

Frans Badenhorst (582)
Monday April 22, 2013, 6:12 am
well, this is a GOOD sign....thanks for posting my friend....

. (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 7:11 am
Great article. Thanks for sharing. it's nice to see that things are changing over there.

Isa Villanen (44)
Monday April 22, 2013, 9:08 am
read, shared and noted.
Thank you, finally something positive from the West Bank!

Raul M. (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 9:51 am
Nice to know about this!

John De Avalon (36)
Monday April 22, 2013, 11:25 am
Unity and friendship through sport.


Alexander W (53)
Monday April 22, 2013, 3:13 pm
Good that nobody came to bomb that Marathon, unlike in Boston.


Angelika R (143)
Monday April 22, 2013, 3:17 pm
Thanks Bob, - I see you CAN make decent comments-that earned you a star.

bob m (32)
Monday April 29, 2013, 7:08 am

bOB KNOWS IRONY ..DO HE!? candy too!
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