People wave Palestinian flags as runners for the second 'Right to Movement' Palestine Marathon gather at the Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Friday, April 11, 2014. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]
by CRI Jerusalum Correspondent Zhang Jin
The second Palestine Marathon was held Friday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem to raise awareness of the restrictions facing Palestinian people trying to move from one place to another. CRI's XYee has more.
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About 3,200 runners from 39 countries gathered around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to enjoy the sporting activities.
The Palestine Marathon, which bears the motto 'Right to Movement', aims to make people around the world aware of the restrictions on the freedom of the Palestinian people. Signe Fischer is one of the founders of the event.
"We wanted to send a statement to the world about the Palestinians' lack of freedom of movement due to the Israeli occupation of their land. And freedom of movement is a basic human right we should all respect."
For Palestinians, holding a marathon on their own land is not only joyful, it also carries special meanings.
"We are very proud."
"I'm very excited."
"I am feeling happy, because people from all over the world come to Palestine."
"A great idea, which gives a direct and clear message to the whole world that we are a peaceful nation, we are looking for a better future for us and for our kids. We hope this event will be held yearly."
A young Palestinian father joins the marathon, pushing his baby daughter in a pram.
"It's a 'right to movement' marathon, and also it's for our future and for the future of our children. She has the right as well to have the movement in our country, that's why she's participating."
The marathon also attracts some 700 foreign runners. Uffe Taudal is a Danish runner who has attended the event both times.
"This is a beautiful event because everything (we heard) on the West Bank it's all about violence, about conflict. Everybody is talking about this conflict is dehumanized, whereas an event like this is purely human. People just normally think they do running. I think it's a great image for the West Bank and it's a very human event which we have very few here."
Compared to the inaugural race last year, this year's event is better organized, but the difficulties remain. Fischer, the event's founder, says that due to the lack of continuous land, the runners have to repeat a four loop course.
"This is Palestine Marathon, we want to work in a territory, an area that is only controlled by Palestinians. Many people are talking about the two-state solution, an independent Palestine next to an independent Israel, whereas in reality, the West Bank is divided into separated areas, and there are no places in Palestine where the Palestinian Authority controls 42 kilometers of their own land."
And many Palestinian runners from the Gaza Strip as well as many other countries are still forbidden by Israelis to participate in the event. A Japanese teacher comes to run on behalf of his Palestinian colleagues in Jordan.
"Most of my coworkers and students cannot come here to run even if they wanted to, because they are Jordanian Palestinians, it's very difficult to get permission from the Israeli government to come here. So I think that's also an important part of 'Right to Movement', not just about the people here, or the people in Jerusalem, but also the people in Jordan and beyond."
Despite all the difficulties, the marathon has brought some changes to the Palestinians, with more people joining running clubs, and more women taking up running.
For CRI, I'm XYee.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8