Usually tranquil, the city of Bethlehem sprang to life on March 31 as around 6,000 Palestinians and foreigners took part in the 5th Annual Free Movement Palestine Marathon.
There are many reasons that make the marathon in Bethlehem unique. This occupied city, with barriers such as the separation wall and road blocks set up by the Israeli authorities, does not offer a continuous 42-kilometre stretch of land for a full marathon to take place. To get around this obstacle, the marathon consists of two 21-kilometre loops which take one through undulating terrain. Starting from the cobbled streets near the Nativity Church in Manger Square, the route passes through two refugee camps – Aida and Dheisheh – and along the infamous separation wall.
This race is a stark reminder of the severe restrictions of movement imposed on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation not only in Bethlehem but in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip as well.
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