Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – Friday morning, a group of Palestinians wore their running clothes, tied their shoes and headed to Jerusalem where they ran a marathon to raise awareness on the forced expulsion of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem; as well as the Batn alHawwa neighborhood in Silwan -South of the alAqsa Mosque.
“The number that we wore was 7850 to symbolize the number of Palestinians who are under threat of being evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and in Silwan,” says Jalal Abu Khater. Abu Khater has been running full 42-kilometer marathons for eight years. He is also a member of the Right to Movement group, a group of Palestinians who organize the annual Right to Movement marathon that calls for Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement.
“We are connecting both neighborhoods which are in Jerusalem, in the heart of Jerusalem, and both under threat of evictions from the Israeli state.”
– Jalal Abu Khater, marathon runner
“The run left Sheikh Jarrah, it was very peaceful. Everyone’s running. We ended in the Batn alHawwa neighborhood in the center of a very Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan,” said Abu Khater. He added, “We were singing, drinking water, resting our legs. A lot of people were just arriving and still coming and clapping for the arrivals.” Abu Khater described the joyous and celebratory atmosphere of the day and its activities. A Palestinian artist who was also there was also singing some traditional songs. Out of nowhere dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed into the celebration.
“The soldiers just came running at us. Holding batons and throwing stun grenades and shooting rubber bullets at people,” said Abu Khater of the Israeli forces that raided them. He continued, “I was hit almost six times from the soldiers on my legs. The legs I use for running, which caused inflammations and bruises that are now a concern. For the past two days, I’ve been feeling pain in my legs.” The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 23 runners were injured. “I had two friends who got shot, one girl. She got shot in the back of her foot,” added Abu Khater. “She’s also a runner, which means that she also cannot run for a few days because of the rubber bullet that hit her.” The Israeli forces also confiscated the speakers that were being used, and destroyed the tents that were set up in solidarity with the thousands of Palestinians threatened with forced expulsion. The Israeli police did not publish an actual statement regarding the incident.
Such an incident has never happened at any of the Israeli organized marathons in the city. The Jerusalem Marathon is an annual marathon running event held in Jerusalem during the month of March. The course begins at the Israeli Knesset, passes through Mount Scopus and the Old City, and finishes at Sacher Park. “It’s a marathon that goes against international laws and international conventions,” says Abu Khater about the State-run Jerusalem marathon. “It goes through a route that goes through the eastern part of the city as well. It’s an occupied city under international law,” says Abu Khater. He adds, “they never, of course, face any violence. If there is a Palestinian who is out there and is not happy, that their movement is being restricted even further they would get beaten up.”
“You would never see violence against Israeli marathon runners, or nationals anywhere in the world. It’s just because we are Palestinians in the city of Jerusalem.”
– Jalal Abu Khater, Palestinian marathon runner