More than 3,000 runners from 39 nations ran through the streets of Bethlehem and its surrounding villages in the second annual Palestine Marathon this weekend. Participants in the "Right to Movement" events completed 10km, half-marathon and full-marathon races on Friday.
The event is the brainchild of Danish activists Lise Ring and Signe Fischer. "The idea to organise a marathon in Palestine came to me one day as I was waiting in a checkpoint. I [had] just moved here from Denmark, and Palestinians' inability to move was what struck me the most," Fischer said in a press release.
The loss of Palestinian land to Israeli settlements and settlement infrastructure in the occupied West Bank makes it impossible to find a continuous, 42km stretch - the distance of a full marathon. For this reason, marathon runners ran a 21km course twice.
The right to movement is enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Palestinian freedom of movement is severely curtailed by the Israeli authorities.
The Israeli separation wall and its 81 gates separate farmers from their land, children from their schools, and even individual homes from villages. Palestinian movement is further restricted by a series of 59 permanent Israeli checkpoints, and an average of 243 spontaneous checkpoints set up each month in the West Bank, UN-OCHA found.
The Israeli authorities have also restricted Palestinian travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Over 500,000 Palestinians entered Israel from Gaza through the Erez border crossing in 2004, compared to only 69,070 in 2013.
The latest victim of this regime of restrictions was Palestinian Olympian Nader Masri, who was prevented from travelling from Gaza to the West Bank to take part in the marathon.