Middle East

Apr 14, 2014

Running from war to create a new Palestinian narrative

Palestinians ran for peace in only the second Palestine Marathon on Friday. Kim Wilkinson, a Middle East academic, reports from Bethlehem on an event that makes a peaceful protest.

The travel agent explained to me that if there were any violence -- such as a bombing or a violent protest -- during my time in Palestine that I would not be covered under insurance because this would be considered "an act of war". This seemed a little extreme, but it is this perception of Palestine as a place of perpetual conflict and violence that the Palestine Marathon is trying to counter. The marathon, which was held for only the second time last Friday, was a peaceful display of hope for a different Palestine. Palestinian runners participated alongside international runners from over 39 countries to raise awareness of Palestinians’ lack of freedom of movement. More that 3000 runners entered the 10-kilometre, half and full marathon events, making their way from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, along the wall between the West Bank and Israel, past the Aida refugee camp, and then alongside olive fields in al-Khader. As Signe Fischer, a founder of the event, put it: "What we would like to show is that everyone can put on their shoes and go running." Fischer, a former humanitarian worker and runner herself, explains that the idea grew from starting a running group with Palestinians and expats. The overwhelming feeling at this running group was: "Now the army is not controlling us. We are normal people. We put on our iPod and go running. We want to show that we can do things." This is the feeling Fischer hopes the event, run by a team of over 300 local and international volunteers, has created. Palestinian runners seemed to revel in the opportunity. Many made the peace sign as they ran past spectators. They were undaunted by the hilly course. Children on bikes cycled with glee among the runners, causing brief moments of chaos.

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