First Of The Month — April 2022

“I gave myself ten months to do it but gave up, defeated after four, admitting this would never be a popular fundraiser and that I was no runner. So Run The Wall was shelved.” Katie Hagley writes about how, eventually, Run The Wall became such a success.

First Of The Month — April 2022

Above: Malakai Hagley, who opted to Surf The Wall whilst his parents walked it.
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Run The Wall
Building Bridges, Not Walls

A few years ago, I road-tested a possible fundraising idea for Amos Trust. It would be called Run The Wall. We would ask supporters to run the entire distance of the Israeli Separation Wall (500 km at the time). First of all, I needed to see if it worked in reality. So I roped in my long-suffering husband Mark, who I had already persuaded into running and taking part in the first Palestine Marathon in 2013. 

He is very used to being ‘encouraged’ to road test ideas for Amos — his least favourite being the survive on a pound a day’ challenge for our street child work. However, Mark threw himself into it, putting money in a jar each time he ran and encouraging our friends to contribute. He was constantly running, clocking up an incredible 500 km in just ten weeks, getting very thin and ensuring our spaniel was one delighted and well-exercised dog. Meanwhile, I gave myself ten months to do it, but gave up, defeated after four, admitting that this would never be a popular fundraiser and that I was no runner. So Run The Wall was shelved. 

Fast forward five years; lockdown, a cancelled Palestine Marathon and the desire to find a way to bring supporters together again in solidarity with Palestinians, to raise awareness about the Wall and raise funds for a home rebuild. Suddenly, a reimagined Run The Wall made more sense. This time we would encourage supporters to run 750 km (the distance of the Wall when finished), but with one important difference, instead of it being an individual challenge wed run the distance between all of us.

We partnered with Right To Movement, the organisation that had started the Palestine Marathon. I hoped we could get 75 people to take part and perhaps raise £15,000. In the end over 400 runners took part worldwide, including many Palestinians, each committing to run between 5 km and 42 km (a total Marathon distance). 

Meanwhile, I gave myself ten months to do it, but gave up, defeated after four, admitting that this would never be a popular fundraiser and that I was no runner. So Run The Wall was shelved. Katie Hagley

We ran in our home towns, in our gardens, on our own and in socially distanced groups, together and apart, yet connected across time zones and countries, listening to the same eclectic running playlist and sharing photos and messages of solidarity on a jam-packed WhatsApp channel. We ran rings around the Wall, running 3,800 km in total and raising £47,000 for Amos’ home rebuilding programme. We felt part of something at a time when we needed to connect more than anything. 

Leading up to March this year, we weren’t sure what things would be happening. And although, wonderfully, the world is more open and the Palestine Marathon has taken place, Covid is still casting its shadow and we felt it was too soon to take a team of runners over to join in. It also got me thinking, whilst we can take only a handful of people to run in Bethlehem, we had seen in 2021 that there were runners from all over the world who would participate in a virtual event if we could make them feel a part of something. So we decided we would do it all again. My only question was, would people still be interested when local park runs and marathons were back in full swing?

The answer was a resounding yes. Over 200 runners (and walkers) clocked up over 2000 km between them over the 11th/12th/13th March weekend. 

Once again, we partnered with Right To Movement, who organised runs across Palestine and helped to encourage people to take part worldwide, with runners in the UK, Ireland, Turkey, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, The Netherlands, South Africa, the USA and Australia. 

Participants ranged in age from 7 to 77 (and beyond); people sported official T-Shirts, home-made T-shirts, flags and signs. There was even a dog called Zoe in an Amos T-Shirt. We ran in the sun, in the rain, in the wind, but everyone ran in solidarity with Palestinians and with one another, eager to connect again after two years of being apart.

A young girl and her dog getting ready to join a fundraising run.

One Girl And Her Dog:
Zoe (and friend) getting ready to run in Bristol
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The Wall

When I went to Palestine in 2005, the Separation Wall was springing up in different sections, already a blot on the landscape. We drove into Bethlehem on the old Hebron Road (it was still open), I could see that the Wall was already under construction around Bethlehem. We were shown where it would go, the land it would infringe upon, and we heard stories from people who would be cut off from their neighbours and their land. 

We were the only ones staying in our hotel in Bethlehem and our hosts kept telling us no one would come and visit once the Wall that would surround Bethlehem was finished. When we left, just five days later, the now-familiar, huge 8-metre high concrete panels were in place, flanking what was to become Checkpoint 300 (the main checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem). It felt like we were leaving our friends and partners in a newly erected open-air prison.

Once again, we partnered with Right To Movement, who organised runs across Palestine and helped to encourage people to take part worldwide, with runners in the UK, Ireland, Turkey, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, The Netherlands, South Africa, the USA and Australia.  

When completed, the Wall (also known as the Apartheid Wall, Separation Barrier or Security Fence) will be 750 km long and will push deep into the West Bank. It will cut off communities from their land, deny them the right to movement and stop any effective dialogue. It continues to have a devastating effect.

Participants in the Palestine Marathon walking through Bethlehem.

Participants in the Palestine Marathon walking passed a military watch tower in Bethlehem
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In 2004 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion stating that Israel’s Separation Wall was illegal, violated international law and should be dismantled. It also recommended that the Palestinians affected be fully compensated.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Freedom of movement:
Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
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The Wall, together with the massive expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, the building of Israeli bypass roads and the policy of home demolitions and land confiscations, once again, make it apparent to Palestinians that their land is wanted, but they are not.

This year also marks the 20th
anniversary since the Israeli government started building the Wall, deepening the need to continue to raise awareness of its human cost and to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and celebrate their resilience and resistance.

Rebuilding hope

In April 2022, thirty Amos supporters will head to the West Bank to rebuild one such demolished home alongside Palestinian builders and the family whose home they will be helping to build. 

Those taking part in Run The Wall have been fundraising and donating towards the cost of the rebuild. We will be rebuilding a home that was destroyed because it had been built on what is described as ‘State Land’. State Land is land that Israel has declared comes under the auspices of the Israeli State and has been one of the most common means used to take land to build settlements, and in this case, to create a new bypass section of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron.

The Wall, together with the massive expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, the building of Israeli bypass roads and the policy of home demolitions and land confiscations, once again make it apparent to Palestinians that their land is wanted, but they are not.

Many Palestinians do not know what land is designated State Land when they are looking to buy it. In this case, as in many others, it only becomes apparent when the first ‘stop-work’ order is received. The family had just completed their home when they received their first order, which was challenged in court. When the second demolition order came, the family’s lawyer was actually on the way to court when their home was destroyed. Their home had been built on the edge of a strip of land deemed State Land. We will be building their new home further down the hillside from their original location in an area not classed as State land but designated as being in Area C

Run The Wall 2022

Those who took part in Run The Wall approached it in so many different ways. Many long term supporters used it as a chance to get others involved. Group runs were organised in Cardiff, Guildford, Nottingham, Omagh, London, on the Isle of Iona, Bristol and elsewhere. Some of these runs involved food (always a winner) with post-run baklava in Cardiff. The Sanderson’s in Guildford rewarded runners with a Palestinian feast, sharing stories of their experiences of taking part in the Palestine Marathon.

A group of runners in Guildford preparing to Run The Wall.

Sarah Sanderson in Guildford preparing for an Amos Trust fundraising run.

Twelve Go Mad in Guildford:
Top: The Sanderson’s... and friends
Bottom: Sarah Sanderson in front of a different wall
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Meanwhile, Amos Trusts newest team members, Jo and Sally, organised a team in Bristol, where they both live, to run/walk from the iconic Suspension Bridge and take in as many bridges as possible in a nod to our strap line ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls. Jo even managed her first ever 10K!

Those running alone were spurred on by the incredibly supportive and active Run The Wall WhatsApp group, constantly pinging, full of photos and stories, distances, weather conditions, reasons for taking part and oh so many Palestinian flags! I was reminded that speaking out for Palestinian rights can be an incredibly lonely business and often feels like an uphill struggle. So, whilst we organised the event in solidarity with Palestinians, the result was a space where people could connect with and support others involved in the same struggle. There was such a sense of passion, hope and solidarity within the WhatsApp group as we realised we were not alone. 

Lamees Nuseibeh, who took part with her family in 2021 and 2022, has committed, with her family and her sister Nabilah, to taking part every year in memory of her Palestinian father, Isaac Nuseibeh. Lamees said of the WhatApp group:

“I really enjoyed the WhatsApp group! I found it incredibly encouraging and quite moving. It’s one of life’s great tragedies that the plight of the Palestinians goes unacknowledged, so to see so many brave and informed people prepared to make a positive stand in support of the Palestinian cause was, to me, tremendously heart-warming. Our dad would have been absolutely delighted — whilst certainly trying to steal the show, even though he wasn't a runner himself!” Lamees Nuseibeh

The Nuseibeh family were not the only people taking part to honour someone’s memory. The Wednesday Wanderers based in Nottingham ran in memory of Richard Durance, husband of Penny. Richard, Penny and a close friend, Brendan, formed a running group for local friends to support each other through lockdown. In 2021 the group took part in Run The Wall. Sadly Richard passed away later in the year, and Penny and the Wednesday Wanderers felt that running together again this year would be a fitting way to remember Richard.

Many participants looked for ways to highlight the lack of freedom of movement that Palestinians experience daily because of the Wall. For example, Eamonn Murphy ran around and around a 400-metre track over two 6-hour periods, clocking up an astonishing 115 km. He was joined by other Breaking The Border team members for parts of his run. In Hull, Tony Garrett and Zem Rodaway toured the local murals because the Wall has so much graffiti (by Banksy and others); while others found small walled-in parks to do laps. Many found large walls to be photographed against en-route — although none matched the Separation Wall’s height.

Eamonn Murphy and friend after they 'ran the wall'.

Tony garret and Zem Rodaway in Hull during Amos Trust's 'Run The Wall' fundraiser.

Run The Wall is for everyone:
Top: Eamonn Murphy and Jill McCann running in Omagh, County Tyrone
Bottom: Tony Garrett and Zem Rodaway in Hull
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Perhaps it was our partners who stole the limelight, with our street justice partners in India and South Africa getting staff and young people involved. We Are Not Numbers also ran in Gaza. There is something extraordinary in bringing our partners together to do things in solidarity with one another when living in totally different situations. 

Young women in India preparing for a fundraising run.

Five men in South Africa prepare for a fundraising run.

Amos Partners:
Top: The young women of Karunalaya doing their stretches 
Bottom: Team Umthombo in South Africa getting ‘in the zone’
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The Palestine Marathon 

The Palestine Marathon went ahead on 18th March — there were significantly fewer runners taking part in the full and half marathon distances than in previous years, with a much reduced international contingent. However, the 10k and 5k were once again mobbed and were, as we have come to expect, an incredible celebration of life in Bethlehem. 

Chris Rose and Nive Hall from the Amos team were back in Palestine for the first time in 30 months and took part with our friend, John Wroe, from Street Child United and Elias Deis, the Director of our partner Holy Land Trust. In the Run The Wall webinar, Elias said the Marathon now challenges Christmas as the most significant celebration held in Bethlehem each year.

Nive Hall and Chris Rose from Amos Trust, John Wroe from Street Child United and Elias D'eis from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem preparing to Run The Wall.

On Your Marks, Get Set... (From the left) Nive Hall and Chris Rose from Amos Trust, John Wroe from Street Child United and Elias D’eis from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem preparing to Run The Wall. 
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Annie Hirsch, Anne Stokes and others from Manchester ran 5k for Run The Wall and then headed to Bethlehem to take part. Annie ran the half marathon and said of the experience: 

“I really enjoyed running a 5k with a group of friends in Manchester as part of Run The Wall and hearing about the range of activities in many countries — an international event. It felt like the starting line for participating in the half marathon in Palestine on 18th March. I love that whatever distance you choose to run from 5k to 42k in the Palestine Marathon, you have run in a race campaigning for the right to movement. There was energy, joy and inspiration from the Palestinian people. Their lives are controlled and restricted by the Wall, but you can see and feel their creative resistance on days like this. It was a privilege to have been part of both.” Annie Hirsch

Run The Wall 2023 and the Palestine Marathon

Next year, we will take runners to participate in the Palestine Marathon. If you would like to find out more, please contact jo@amostrust.org. It really is a hugely life-affirming experience.  

We hope that the marathon trip will run in parallel with the return of our cycling tours of the West Bank. Our resident cyclist Chris was delighted to meet with the Palestine Riders in Ramallah and the Hebron Bike Team, who were riding/marshalling the Marathon. Do also drop Jo a note if you want to learn more about the ride.

As to Run the Wall in 2023 — we hope to build on the last two years and widen it further to draw more people into running/walking/crawling in solidarity with Palestine and as a celebration and demand for the right to movement. Watch this space for further details. 

If you cannot wait and would like to support the efforts of this years runners and our home rebuilders as they seek to rebuild our 7th demolished home in the West Bank, you can donate here

As the world opens up again, we are once more travelling to Palestine; please visit our travel pages for forthcoming trips.
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A Little More... 

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