Palestine Marathon

Monday night March 19, on a whim we decided to book a room at The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem and run in the Palestine Marathon 10K.  The only room available was the Presidential Suite and registration was closed for the 10K but we were determined, so we boldly booked for two nights in the suite and figured we would get into the race one way or another.  We thought very briefly about the safety of our decision as The US State Department warns its citizens to avoid large crowds and discourages participation in big events.  But for those who don’t know us, we don’t always play by the rules!29386732_10215919165280547_3374174896702619648_nSo the day after returning from our two day road trip to the north we took the train to Jerusalem where we found an Arab Israeli taxi driver to take us into the West Bank and drop us off at the hotel.  We headed straight for the Marathon Expo in Manger Square to try for late registration.  Unfortunately they were completely out of numbers but said that we could register for the Family Fun Run which was loosely billed as a 5K.  The cost was only 30₪, less than 9$, which got us a shirt, swag bag and a medal.  IMG_0745 (1)After registration we checked into our Presidential suite which made us wonder how many famous people had been in the room before us.  Sandy did note however that they did not even supply robes or slippers.  This hotel was opened by the elusive British artist Banksy.  It is part whimsy and spectacle with a lot of dark humorous art and a wall mart which sells supplies for wall painting, part serious with a wall museum and an art gallery featuring Palestinian artists.

Presidential bed for Madam President.
Large non jacuzzi bathtub even though there is a water shortage in Bethlehem.  We did not use it.  Note the bullet holes in the water tank on the right.
Guest bathroom in the suite.
Balcony looking over the wall.

That night we went out to a very rustic Palestinian farm to table restaurant, Hosh Jasmin.  It was about a 15 minute taxi ride to a desolate looking country road where a somewhat rundown house was perched on the side of a mountain facing west over a barren Wadi towards another small West Bank village.  We arrived there in time for the last of the sunset which was beautiful.  IMG_0756We were greeted at the entrance to the side terrace by the Restaurant’s pet sheep who was gentle and friendly.

Air kiss with the sheep.

We dined outside on very rustic wooden tables sitting on the dirt.IMG_7083 (1).jpg

Did we say that the table was rustic?

The food was simple but very fresh, aromatic and tasty.  Our taxi driver Alaa had of course volunteered to return and take us home.

The inside roof liner of Alaa’s taxi.  You can see his name on almost every panel of the wall in front of the Hotel.  @alaa_taxi_driver_bethlehem

The next morning we awoke early and walked the 2K to Manger Square and the start of our run.

Manger square before the run with The Church of the Nativity hidden by the staging.
We pushed our way to the front of this crowd for the start of the run.

Sandy had a plan; this run was not going to be a repeat of our disappointing 5K “walkathon” of the Tel Aviv Marathon which we did a few weeks earlier.  We pushed and shoved our way to the front of the starting corral and took off running as fast as we could to leave the weak, infirm and families with strollers behind.  If anyone got in our way or stopped in our path we physically pushed them aside and moved on.  Sandy calls it running Middle Eastern style.  We will definitely need to clean up our act and be more civilized for the BAA 5K next month in Boston.  The 5K turned out to be more of a 3K but it did have some nice hills so at least it was a mini workout.

Picture with the volunteers handing out apples.
Jim showing support for Palestine.
Sandy showing her support.

IMG_0786We walked back to our hotel in the street along the running route now dodging all of the runners going the other way back to the finish line of the 10K, half and full marathon.  There were no barricades and occasionally there would be a stray car on the road.  The marathon was a double loop which went by our hotel so we sat on the side terrace for a few hours making friends with a group of 20 year old runners from the UK and also giving directions to the straggling lone runners who were going by.

Our Presidential Suite is all of the top floor that you can see with two balconies.
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A very pleasant day on the terrace making new friends.  We had breakfast here after running and didn’t leave until about 2pm.

IMG_7071We went out to dinner with our eight new friends from the UK, one living in Thailand and another from Ireland.  The restaurant was Arabic of course called The Tent.  We only ordered a Mezze platter and salads which was plenty for all.  We invited them to our suite for a post marathon party and of course we outlasted them all.

Can you find Sandy?  Dressed for the post marathon dinner.
After dinner picture with new friends.
After dinner party in our suite.
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Norma liked our room.

We booked a two hour tour of a refugee camp near our hotel at 10am Saturday morning.  Our tour guide Marwan was very knowledgable, interesting and passionate about the plight of the Palestinians.  Aida camp was established in 1950 by refugees from the Jerusalem and Hebron areas, and covered an area of 0.17 square kilometers.  At the time, Aida housed 1125 refugees living in 94 tents, there are now over 5,000 refugees living in the same small area.  We felt that it was mandatory for us to hear and see the other side of the Arab Israeli story.

Entrance to the Aida refugee camp.  The key is to remind them that they all left homes with their key, planning to return.
Israeli security tower next to the camp.
Mustafa, our guide in the refugee camp shows us bullet holes in the door to the school shot from the tower in the picture above.

After our tour we took a taxi from Bethlehem back to our apartment in Tel Aviv as there are no trains or buses running on Shabbat.

6 responses to “Palestine Marathon”

  1. A Tale of Two Cities…..kinda sums up the problems of the world. Good for you, you aren’t just tourists.

    1. One of the best things that we have done.

  2. This may be my favorite post which I base upon my level of jealousy.

    I am working on draft book titles for your adventure travel series. “70’s miles per hour” ok, ok not good. How about “From here to infirmary” no, no, I can do better. “Drink, Run, Love; Everywhere: Baby Booming World Travel”. A little long, some copyright issues but I’m getting close.

    1. Hahaha, those are great. Our last week has been just awesome.
      Palestine is very sobering.

  3. What an amazing experience you shared with all of us……the adventure never disappoints!!!

    1. The last three weeks have been really something special.

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