This week end, there is a marathon in Bethlehem. As in every marathon, people have been training and are preparing themselves to run up to 42 kilometres.
But this is not just any marathon. Far beyond the running, this is a call, a powerful message. This marathon is called ‘Right for movement’ and symbolises the daily fight of thousands of Palestinians that are denied their fundamental rights.
Many volunteers have planned to go, some are even going to run in it. I would try to run a bit too, but I’ve been very sick the last few days, so I’d better not. We’re all going down to Bethlehem on Thursday, a day before the marathon, and will spend the night in a hostel.
Some of us decide to leave earlier than the others, which gives us the opportunity of visiting the city of Bethlehem. It is always a strange feeling to be in one of the places that we’ve heard about so much during our religion classes, as kids; Jesus is supposed to have been born here. We get to see that particular place, the Church of Nativity, among other beautiful places that are to be found here.
It’s a beautiful city. However, nothing is as beautiful as the energy that is around, the next day. People from all ages and all nationalities are present. Some are walking, others running, for more or less big distances. But that doesn’t count. What counts is that men and women are all united that day for the same reasons, the same desire. It is like saying to the Israelis, to the world: “You can take everything from us but you can’t take away our hope. We will keep fighting until we recover our freedom.” What an amazing example of peaceful protest.
The path of the marathon goes through several key locations, along the wall, inside refugee camps and next to Israeli checkpoints, which is very symbolic.
In the morning, we decide to go and see the runners, and walk along them up to the wall.
This is maybe the most interesting place I have seen so far in the West Bank. Here I am, confronted to the physical materialization of the occupation, in front of the wall that separates Palestinians from the outside world. But there is much more to this wall than cement and watchtowers; everywhere, I see messages of hope. I see people using one of the most powerful weapons that exists: art.
We adventure ourselves in an opening of the wall that leads to a cemetery. The tombs are clearly not well taken care of. Palestinians are buried here, but my friend Dörte explains to me that their families are not allowed to visit them when they want. They can only come once or twice a year, with a special authorization, or they’re at risk to get shot. I look up to face a watchtower, and a disturbing feeling creeps into me. Knowing that they are there, watching us walk in a cemetery clearly not made for anyone we know, and that the only reason why they are not shooting is that we don’t look arab; there’s nothing right about this situation. One of my photos shows a star of David overlooking some tombs with arabic writings on them…
This wall means so much. How can something like this still exist? Are we not supposed to be more “evolved?” Separating people from the rest of the world, not allowing them to leave if they want, doesn’t that remind you of a similar situation that happened a century ago? Whatever reasons brought us to this, whatever justification you want to give to things, whoever has suffered the most is not what’s important here. What’s important is that there is a fucking wall. A wall. It’s not even hidden or anything, you can’t deny its existence. A wall that is considered illegal by international law, just as the whole occupation. How are we letting this happen?
During the marathon, things get violent at some point; I don’t know what happens exactly, but some Israeli soldiers end up throwing tear gas at some runners, forcing everybody to make a detour.
But overall, the mood is very festive after the marathon, and it’s a positive impression and good memories that we all keep from that day.
Big up to all the runners!!!