In photos: Thousands run the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem

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Originally published by Ma’an News Agency on March 27, 2015.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — More than 3,000 people took to the streets of Bethlehem Friday to participate in the third annual Palestine Marathon in support of the Right to Movement of Palestinians under occupation.

The crowd of runners included both Palestinians and internationals and nearly equal numbers of women and men. Organizers said they managed to secure entry for 50 Palestinians from Gaza, who are normally restricted by Israel from entering the West Bank.

One Gazan runner — Nader al-Masri — even came first in the marathon with a time of 2 hours, 57 minutes, and 14 seconds. The result was hardly a surprise, however, as al-Masri is Palestine’s most famous runner and even participated in the 2008 Olympics.

After Israel refused him to allow him to enter the West Bank and participate in last year’s marathon, his victory in Friday’s marathon offered a story of triumph even amid the suffering of Palestinians — especially Gazans — under Israeli occupation.

The marathon course runs along Bethlehem’s Manger Street, setting off from the plaza in front of the Church of the Nativity en route to Jerusalem before veering southwest where the Israeli separation wall cuts the road off.
The route passes Azza and Aida refugee camps near the wall before continuing along Hebron Road past Duheisha refugee camp and finally Solomon’s Pools, home to an millenia-old water cistern as well as an Ottoman fortress. Bethlehem’s three camps are home to thousands of Palestinian refugees expelled from their villages in what became Israel in 1948, and who are forbidden by Israeli law from returning to their former homes which are sometimes only a few kilometers away.
Organizers have previously said that due to the Israeli separation wall, checkpoints, and settlements, they had difficulty finding an uninterrupted 42-kilometer (26 mile) course.
The Bethlehem region is bisected by such obstacles, as is much of the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.The course itself thus in many ways encapsulates the very barriers to Palestinian movement that the marathon seeks to highlight.

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