Palestine: one pedal stroke at a time

“When you combine a love of cycling with a sense of adventure and an appetite for human rights, you’ve got a recipe for an unforgettably unique experience that truly gets under your skin, and may just change you a little forever.” Jacqueline Waggett shares her experience of cycling through the West Bank.

O Little Town of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, and all on a bicycle — why not?

When you combine a love of cycling with a sense of adventure and an appetite for human rights, you’ve got a recipe for an unforgettably unique experience that truly gets under your skin, and may just change you a little forever.

This was not my first trip to Palestine — last year I joined a small group of cyclists on a trip of a lifetime; travelling on a bicycle gave us a feeling of being connected to the people, the land and the challenges they face, in a way that was truly a privilege to experience.

The Palestinian people are so shocked to see us, the response and welcome is one of complete openness, which today I find is very rare.

Beyond the pilgrimage tours, arriving on coaches to see the churches and temples, there are few tourists and even fewer Palestinians that own bikes — they simply don’t have the freedom of movement or the choice to explore in this way. This is part of what makes this trip feel so special.

The Palestinian people are so shocked to see us, the response and welcome is one of complete openness, which today I find is very rare — we are carried along by cries of ‘you are welcome’, ‘come have coffee with me’, ‘why are you here?’ (particularly to the females among us). We ride along feeling like celebrities!

Members of Team Amos cycling through the West Bank on their way to Jericho.

World-class descent: Cycling through the West Bank on the way to Jericho.

It is then something of a leveller to be moving so slowly, wrangling your bike over potholes and still finding enough breath for that last push on a hill climb, (and it is very hilly), before sweeping through blossom filled valleys, past ancient olive trees, Roman ruins and gliding down world class descents (this is uncharted cycling heaven).

It’s easy to forget the political turbulence that dominates the land and people, well I say easy, but in reality, around each bend there is an Israeli control tower, or change in tarmac quality, to mark the ever illegal and eerie presence of another settlement.

It’s hard, (really hard) to share a clear narrative on how the conflict and desire for land and dominance has unfolded in Palestine. In many parts it’s now a jumble of ancient Bedouin camps and Palestinian people (who we dined with) trying to live alongside clinical Israeli settlers, that literally pop up on their doorstep overnight creating an understandably palpable and constant sense of tension. The diversity and contrasts are so extreme.

Team Amos standing in front of the Separation Wall in Bethlehem.

Standing in front of the Separation Wall in Bethlehem: It’s easy to forget the political turbulence that dominates the land and people, well I say easy, but in reality, around each bend there is an Israeli control tower, or change in tarmac quality, to mark the ever illegal and eerie presence of another settlement.

Palestinian people are living daily with a very real threat of violence to them, their home, children, water, electricity supplies, points of access and ability to travel and move around their own land freely; we sat and heard their stories which were awash with shocking acts of inhumanity, and in contrast, inspiring acts of activism and bravery in response to this. This trip shook me, woke me and stirred an energy that contrasts to my comfortable life at home with freedom and choices.

It is then something of a leveller to be moving so slowly, wrangling your bike over potholes and still finding enough breath for that last push on a hill climb.

I try to give these experiences a voice, to friends and family or just a stranger on the plane, as it gives power to the unheard; it’s not always an easy conversation, but one I feel impassioned to share.

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If you would like to join Team Amos on our next Tour of Palestine in March 2020, please visit amostrust.org/tour-of-palestine-2020

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