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What I learned when I cycled through Palestine

Rosina Credit Rugfoot PhotographyJust as tensions began to rise in Israel and the West Bank, I undertook a cycle and study tour of Palestine organised by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). We covered around 200km in five days in 40oC heat – at the time if it felt like the cycling version of the Sahara’s ‘marathon des sables’. I’ve read a lot about the situation in Palestine over the years but nothing could really prepare me for what I saw and experienced in that single week.

Over five days, the sponsored ride took us from Nablus in the North to the enclave town of Qalquilya then on to Ramallah. We then swept down into the Jordan Valley to Jericho and the Dead Sea, 300m below sea level to then climb the next day up to Hebron and back on the final day through Bethlehem to Jerusalem. We were never far from the tensions with Ramallah city going into ‘lock down’ with roads closed not long after we left and one of our group getting trapped in the Al-Aqsa mosque as violence grew in Jerusalem.

What we saw was the suffocating pressure faced by Palestinians in every part of their existence and the resolve needed just to do the day-to-day things we take for granted. The general sense of unease was apparent walking around Jerusalem where there was a heavy military presence and the Jewish civilian settlers were openly carrying hand guns in the street.

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