More than 3,000 runners from 39 countries tried to finish 26-mile course in the second annual Palestine Marathon, held under the banner the ‘Right to Movement’ this Friday in Bethlehem. The runners made their way around the West Bank separation wall, passing checkpoints to complete 10km, half-marathon and full-marathon races.
The marathon was held for the first time on April 21, 2013, with about 700 participants. The idea of the ‘Right to Movement’ race in Bethlehem was conceived by the Danish activists Lærke Hein and Signe Fischer.
Israeli settlements and settlement infrastructure in the West Bank made it impossible to find a continuous, 42km stretch – the distance of a full marathon. That is why the Palestine marathon was run in circles. Organizers promote the idea that everyone should have the right to freedom of movement – a right denied to Palestinians, whose freedom of movement is severely restricted by the Israeli.
Even if the article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates the right of free movement, the separation wall, with its 81 gates, divides Palestinians from their land, and schools, and villages. The movement is also limited by a series of 59 permanent Israeli checkpoints, and an average of 243 spontaneous checkpoints set up each month in the West Bank, according to UN-OCHA. At the same time, Israeli authorities have restricted access of Palestinians between West Bank and Gaza.