Palestine marathon highlights lack of free movement in region

CCTV News

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Thousands of runners participated in the annual Palestine marathon near Bethlehem Friday. The sporting event also delivers a political message: That Palestinians have a right to move freely beyond areas of occupation, organizers said.

CCTV’s Stephanie Freid reports from Bethlehem.

Palestine marathon highlights lack of free movement in region

Palestine marathon highlights lack of free movement in region

Thousands of runners participated in the annual Palestine marathon near Bethlehem Friday. The sporting event also delivers a political message: That Palestinians have a right to move freely beyond areas of occupation, organizers said.

It’s Palestine’s only official marathon. Coined “Right to Movement” the run, for Palestinians, goes beyond the physical endeavor.

“The Palestine Marathon illustrates how we live in Palestine. It starts from the Nativity Church, through an apartheid wall, through two refugee camps and then back to the nativity square, Marathon Organizer Diala Isid said.

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Israel’s barrier wall and nearby Jewish settlements block the option of a continuous route. To go the entire 42-kilometer (26 miles) route, runners endeavoring the entire marathon have to loop the same circuit four times.

For runners, the marathon is a means of showing the world what the struggle of life under occupation is about.

“It’s amazing to show other people in the world that we need to have the right to movement because if we move from a city to another, our movement is very restricted,” said a runner named Baraa who did not give a surname. “So this kind of activity is like to say out loud: We have the right to move freely.”

This year, more than a hundred Gazans – including last year’s marathon winner – missed the race. Israeli officials, saying they applied too late, did not issue travel permits.

“I will never understand the Israeli security concern. There’s no security concern that prevents a runner from coming to run the Palestine marathon,” Marathon Organizer George Zeidan said.

More than 4,000 people participated in this year’s marathon. Organizers hope that eventually the course will go straight from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and not force runners to go in circles.