BETHLEHEM, March 18, 2018 (WAFA) – Over 10,000 Palestinian and international runners today descended on Bethlehem to participate in the Eighth International Palestine Marathon.
The Marathon started at the Church of the Nativity in the center of the Old City of Bethlehem in the attendance of a host of officials, most notably Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestine Olympic Committee and of the Higher Council for Youth and Sports.
Rajoub, who gave the nod for the launch of the marathon, said that the event sends the message that the Palestinian people have the right to live and move freely on the territories of the State of Palestine.
The marathon course took athletes through different view on Palestinian everyday life, including few steep hills and with some fast sections. It started at the Church of Nativity taking the runners through the city, the two refugee camps of Aida and Dheisheh and along the Israeli apartheid wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.
It included four tracks; the full 42-kilometer race, a 21-kilometer race, a 10-kilometer race and the five-kilometer family race.
Held for the first time on April 21, 2013, the Palestine Marathon is held this year, 2022, after two years of cancellation due to the pandemic, starting at 6:00 am, from the Manager Square in Bethlehem like it has been for the past 9 years since it was not possible to find a 42 km stretch within the Palestinian Territories without passing through Israeli checkpoints, it was decided to hold the event on an 11 km stretch, which full marathon runners would complete 4 times.
According to the marathon’s coordinator, Itidal Abdul Ghani, there are over 10,000 Palestinian and international athletes, including 1,150 internationals representing 80 states, including athletes from Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and 500 members of the diplomatic corps in Palestine. Females account for 50 percent of the total number of athletes.
As part of the logistics, 200 police officers are deployed to ensure free movement for the athletes in addition to over 500 volunteers responsible for providing first aid treatment, among others.
The Palestine Olympic Committee, which sponsored the event, said that the “event shows the international community another side of Palestinians; it creates international awareness of the Palestinian story, increases knowledge of Palestinian life, culture, and hospitality, and builds understanding across cultures. Moreover, the annual marathon adds value to the Palestinian economy and the tourism sector.”
It added that the marathon provides international athletes with the opportunity to “hit” Israel’s apartheid wall, which “prevents Palestinians from exercising their basic human right to freedom of movement and separates them from their land and from each other,” not to mention other movement impediments, namely the complex combination of military checkpoints and Gaza’s blockade.