Bethlehem, West Bank – Winding through the steep, narrow streets of Bethlehem in the West Bank, more than 650 runners braved the cold and rain as they tested their endurance in one of the oldest cities in the world.
The Danish organisers of Sunday’s race, Laerke Hein and Signe Fischer, worked with their Palestinian counterparts to put together the run dubbed the “Right to Movement Marathon”.
Inspired by the UN declaration that all people have the “right to movement”, the race was meant to highlight both the affects of the Israeli occupation, as well as the plight of Palestinian women.
New Israeli settlements have become a focal point in the region in recent months, adding yet another issue to the growing list of Palestinian grievances with Israelis.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Marathon was recently cancelled because the ruling party Hamas refused to allow women to run alongside men.
In a bid to raise awareness about the hardships of Palestinians, course designers created a route in which runners of the full marathon passed through the Ayda and Ad Dhaisha refugee camps, as well as by the infamous “security wall”.
Some young Palestinian runners turned to the Israeli guard tower and made obscene gestures as they passed, highlighting the deep tensions that exist in the area.
The winner of the men’s marathon was a Palestinian runner from Jericho, Abdel Nasser Awajna, who finished with a time of 3:09. Awajna was flanked by Palestinian youth as he crossed the finish line.
The winner of the women’s marathon was Palestinian Christine Gebler with a time of 3:38. She, too, received a hero’s welcome.