This is a full transcript of the Podcast interview so that you can read along!

Right to Movement interview with George Zeidan

Kristel: [00:00:00] George. Thank you very much for being on the podcast. You are one of the initiators of the Right to Movement and also one of the most active members. But before we start talking about the Right to Movement, can you introduce yourself a little bit?

George Zeidan

[00:00:14] George:  My name is George Zeidan. I’m a Palestinian from, shouldn’t be a surprise from the title of the podcast.

[00:00:22] I grew up in the old city of Jerusalem. I went to school in the old city of Jerusalem, graduated from Collège the Frère, a French high school at the New Gate. Some exceptional experience that I wouldn’t trade off for anything. My father is from Beit Jalla. So I grew up living in Beit Jalla as well. It’s about a six mile trip between Beit Jalla and Jerusalem, which I used to take daily to commute to school.

[00:00:46] It sounds like a basic easy trip, but it was not. It included a lot of challenges and checkpoints and adventurous. As I like to call it. I had the opportunity to get a scholarship to finish my BA  at the University of North Carolina, in Business Administration. And few years later, I was able to secure a Fulbright scholarship that granted me an opportunity to complete my Masters degree at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles at the school of Public Policy.

[00:01:19] I started an internship in 2011, actually, with a Danish nonprofit called Danish Church Aid in their office in Jerusalem. And currently I’m a program manager managing a program, focusing on youth, media, youth community tourism in Jerusalem. As you also mentioned, I’m here to talk to you about what we do in Right to Movement,  which I happen to be involved in it since almost eight years now. And it’s one of the most exciting projects in Palestine.

[00:01:48] Kristel: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Right to Movement? What is it, what do you do? What kind of activities, how did it come about and what are we talking about? I mean, we all have the right to movement? So what is that?

[00:01:59] George: It was an initiative that started with a group of Danish and Palestinian volunteers. The idea was to use running, to highlight the issues and the restrictions imposed on Palestinian movement, due to the Israeli occupation, through long distance running. It was mainly that we found out that there’s no marathon, official marathon in Palestine.

[00:02:22] And we thought this would be a great opportunity to mobilize people from all over the world, Palestinians indeed, to come together on this day and focus, or emphasize on the message of right to movement as a basic human right, that we in Palestine we’re missing, all Palestinians miss, whether you live in Gaza and you’re not allowed to leave Gaza, whether you live in the Westbank and you cannot commute between Palestinian cities, whether your wife is from Jerusalem and you can’t go visit her family, or you can’t live together in Jerusalem.

[00:02:52] And whether you have children, you want, you need to go to school. Everybody has his own story as Palestinian with right to movement. So we started by trying to find the route for the marathon in Bethlehem. And what was interesting is that we could not find the needed distance to complete a full marathon, which is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers.

[00:03:14] So. In order to finish the marathon that, we started organizing, you have to do the same route four times. So it starts from point A to point B and back to point A and back to point B again and back to point A. So it really resembles the story of Right to Movement for Palestinians, because it emphasizes on why we don’t have, our own land under our control, why we can’t move in our own land, really.

Bethlehem checkpoint

[00:03:37] And that’s where we tried to use the marathon to bring attention to this. The track of the marathon itself also resembles the Right to Movement, you know, when you run, you pass by refugee camps, by Israeli checkpoints by the wall by land that has been or threatened to be confiscated by Israeli settlements.

[00:03:55] So it’s really the same way we go to school the same way we’d go to church the same way we go to a wedding, the same way you go to work. It’s the same way when you run, this is what you experience.



[00:04:05] Kristel: So, how was it not possible to do a full 42 K marathon in one stretch?

[00:04:11] George: The challenge is you know, that the Palestinian territories are classified as areas A, B and C.

[00:04:19] So in Bethlehem, we could not find the stretch needed to finish a marathon under the Palestinian control or in area A. You will have to go into area B or C, which requires coordination with Israel, which they wouldn’t grant, first of all, and it’s not something, your project would be vulnerable at the mood of any Israeli soldier who would like to stop this huge event.


[00:04:43] And it’s really the same way we live, you know, our, most of our life is concentrated within area A, that’s where we would have the ability to organize and to control what happens in these, these area, to secure it for running, you know, running is something very sensitive security wise. You have to block the roads, you have to do stuff like this.

[00:05:02] So in order to do this, you would have to have jurisdiction over the land and it’s only possible in area A.

[00:05:08] Kristel: Do you have any idea how much of the West bank is area A and how much is under Israeli control?

Oslo map of areas A, B and C in Westbank



[00:05:16] George: I am familiar with area C. It comes down to maybe 60% of the Westbank. And the challenge is that there’s no connectivity between these areas. So it could be that in one city, in the middle of the city is area A and then all the suburbs are area C. And then when you travel to another Palestinian city, you will have to go through area C and B. So it makes the security and the feeling of safety in these areas is very weak.





[00:05:43] Kristel: When you started organizing this marathon. First of all, you wanted to create a sports event, I guess, for local Palestinians, but in the same time you have this message. How do you feel that you’ve managed to get your message across and to whom?

[00:05:59] George: That’s a very important question, Kristel, to be honest with you, we were thinking in the beginning and it was not me or any of the other Palestinians,  it was actually the Danish partners that emphasized on the idea of, you know, everything that happens in Palestine is always happening for solidarity. So it’s okay that it’s not good enough because we’re under occupation. That’s a standard perspective on everything, whether it’s sports, medicine, administration, civil service, anything. What they emphasized on, let’s organize a professional marathon, the same way you run a marathon in Amsterdam, the same way you run a marathon in Berlin, the same way you run a marathon in South Africa or Tokyo. So something professional, even the fees were professional fees. Like you pay $80 to sign up as an international in the race because we’re giving you everything that other international races are giving you.

[00:06:52] And that was one important aspect of bringing in new blood to Palestine. And I say this because I love solidarity projects, you know, but they always preach to the same choir. And what we were able to do with our project is reach out to a lot of people who have not been exposed to Palestine before maybe they’re not interested in politics.

[00:07:15] Maybe they just haven’t had the chance to be exposed to it. When we invite them here or market it as a sports destination, then we’re able to increase their knowledge and showcase the Palestinian reality of living under occupation and the limitation of movement. And that was the whole concept of how we want to do it.

[00:07:34] So. It was also done in a Palestinian way, in professional, but in Palestinian way. What I mean about it? When you run in the Chicago marathon they will give you energy gels. When you run in Palestine we’ll give you fresh dates from Jericho. When you run in Europe or when you run in Latin America in a race they’re probably dancing samba or tango on the stations where we had dabka performing at the break stations.


Bethlehem marathon 2018

00:07:57] So we had to do our own culture, revive our own story, which gave the race a special touch as in every other part of the world. We have a lot of ways to make it creative here. Which was fascinating. The first three years we had 600 runners, a small race. Half of them were internationals.

Bethlehem Marathon March 2018



[00:08:17] The last edition we organized, we had over 4600 runners, an increase of 4000 runners where almost 1200 were internationals. We’re very proud of percentage of woman participants in the race. It ranged from the beginning from 36% to the last year about 48% of the participants. And this is really due to a lot of efforts from many different organizations. We’re not taking credit for this by ourselves, but we believe that we are one of the first motors behind this movement that inspires Palestinian women to do sports in the street, to run together with men in equal numbers in Palestinian streets.

[00:08:57] So through what we do on the weekly basis in our running group. The running groups are a by-product of the Right to Movement. So they go hand in hand with the marathon. When we started organizing the marathon, we emphasized on the importance of developing a culture of running behind it. At the moment, we have seven groups all over Palestine in Haifa and in Jaffa as well, where each group is led by a female and male leader.

[00:09:26] And through social media, we promote activities, runs exercises, yoga classes, hikes. Everybody’s a volunteer, and these activities are promoted to encourage people to come together. The idea is that, first of all, we create a happy lifestyle in Palestine, we create a community, you know, some people come to run some people come for walks, some people come to lose weight. Some people come to find a wife, you know, traditionally you would go to the mosque to do that. Or the church. We give a different alternative, equal alternative for it, and it’s totally fine. People will come for all aspects.

[00:10:02] And we have a good time and we create an atmosphere that is welcoming Palestinian women doing sports in the street. And this is very, very important because what we learned over the years is by being consistent in what we do, we were able to, I’m not going to claim that we reached the moon, but with our consistency, we were able to normalize our behavior.

[00:10:27] At least in the areas where we were, I would say that prior to our groups, it was much harder for Palestinian women to do exercise in the street to run or walk. And at least in the areas where our groups are functioning, it became an accepted habit. And that’s very exciting for us. We think it’s a great achievement and we totally believe it’s a result of our consistency of being there.

[00:10:51] Same time, same day, every week, rain or not rain, we’re always there, we’re always active, we’re always promoting it happily on social media and trying to get people to come on behind it.

Outdoor activities

[00:11:03] Kristel:  Hey, and George, I see your posts on the Right to Movement Facebook page, but basically when you promote the, there’s weekly  indoor practice, but then there’s also outdoors activities, but it’s always the same two locations, Cremisan and the Makhrour. Why is that?

[00:11:23] George: Again, it ties back directly to our ability to feel safe to go in our own land. I will give you an example. Last week, this Saturday, we were in Cremisan and we went for a walk. I mean, we were 20 people, maybe five of us were jogging seven or eight were running really fast. And the rest we were walking. And there was and Israeli police car and everybody got furious.

[00:11:45] Everybody was just stressed out. They were just there. It’s area A, part of it is area A, part of it is area C actually. But they were there and everybody was not comfortable and some people left. And it was, I mean, these are the areas that we feel it’s nice enough for us to change the environment.

[00:12:06] You know, you don’t want to be around cars. You don’t want to be in a busy city. So we go to the outskirts of the city, but then when the Israeli army is there, it gives us unneeded feelings. Where do we go? What are we going to do?

 As I, as I said, each group does its own program.

[00:12:25] So in Bethlehem, for instance, where I manage the group together with other leaders, we have an indoor training on Tuesdays and we have a weekend run. So every Tuesday we have a fitness strength cardio training in the evening. And then in the weekend, sometimes we have an early Saturday morning running exercise or an afternoon running exercise.

Indoor activities

[00:12:47] Other cities have their own program. To me what’s the beautiful part is that you could do an event with Right to Movement every day of the week in a different city. So there’s always something on Mondays in Jerusalem, Tuesdays in Bethlehem and Ramallah and Wednesday in Jaffa on Thursdays in Ramallah on Saturday morning in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, oh, half of the groups gather on Sunday evening. So wherever you are you could actually take a trip in Palestine and participate in a class every day in a different city.

[00:13:17] Kristel: And how did you go about it during the Corona pandemic during the lock downs?

[00:13:20] George: The first few months, we decided to do this virtual training program where every day we’ll offer a training and every day it’s a new person from a different group.

[00:13:34] It was actually exciting because the people from Bethlehem who cannot go to Jaffa, we’re able to train with the Jaffa trainer and we were able to meet with the Jaffa group and vice versa. So we had, we were able to create actually and meet each other more because it’s hard when it’s not Covid because everybody is in his city and most of the people in the Westbank do not have the ability to go join the Jaffa and Haifa group.

[00:13:57] Kristel:  Yeah. That was really special. I remember joining a few of them because it was hard for me with the kids around, but training with people from all over Palestine, on online from your own room

[00:14:09] George: And internationally as well. And internationally, because it gave us the chance to people who have been part of what we do. That’s actually something very special about what we do, you know, anybody who lived in Bethlehem or Ramallah, for example, and participated with us for a year, automatically becomes a supporter.

[00:14:28] And somebody that engages with what we do constantly. And these people had the chance to join these trainings during the pandemic, because hey, why not, you know. So we had the trainings here and we had some people from Chicago in different time zone, totally bananas, or Chile, joining the trainings. So that was, yeah, that was cool.

[00:14:48] Kristel: There were some upsides for this pandemic.

Yasin Sharabati

[00:14:57] Good morning, Yasin. You just came from a run with the Right to Movement?

[00:15:03] Yasin: Yeah. Yeah, of course. It’s very good today. Maybe six kilo. [kilometer]

[00:15:09] Kristel: [00:15:09] You did six kilo. Wow. How many people?

Yasin:  12 people

Kristel: Do you do it every week?

[00:15:16] Yasin:  Yeah, every week, we run in Makhrou, Cremisan, Bethlehem. It’s good.

[00:15:27] Kristel: Nice! Yatikelafya [May God give you health]

Runners with Right to Movement

Kristel: Did you just come from the run?

Female runner: Yes.

Kristel: Do you do it often?

[00:15:34] Female runner: Every Saturday, sometimes Sundays or whenever they decide

[00:15:39] Kristel: How many people were you today? Do you know?

[00:15:43] Female runner: Approximately 15, something like that more or less, but often there are more people, especially when we run in the afternoon, because then they’ll be done with their jobs and schools. So yeah.

[00:15:53] Kristel: And how important is it for you to have this opportunity to run with the right to movement?

[00:15:58] Female runner: It is liberating really, because often we are bounded by rules, by the Israelis by the occupation. There aren’t many places to run anymore. Even here, there was a point where they closed the Makhrour, so we weren’t even able to come here.

[00:16:13] So any chance I get to come with the right to movement to run in Cremisan, in Makhrour, any other place, I’ll go definitely.It is very important, very liberating. It makes us feel more free in our own country, which is weird, but that’s the truth unfortunately.

[00:16:28] Kristel:  Yeah, because when you say they closed it for a while, what does that mean?

[00:16:32] Female runner: Well, it meant that us as Palestinians, we couldn’t come here for political reasons or sometimes there are soldiers. So we can’t pass really, or their reasons sometimes, they just feel like it. So yeah.

[00:16:47] Kristel: If there were no walls and no checkpoints and you were to pick a run. Where would you go?

[00:16:53] Female runner: Haifa, Jaffa, a run by the beach. That would be great. Our country is amazing. Palestine has some of the most incredible views of all the times. We have the beach, we have hills, we have mountains. But they took it all. It’s all within the wall. So it’s very rare for us to go there. But if I had the chance, I’d go on a daily basis, it’s actually very close to go to Jerusalem if there was no wall. So yeah.

Mousa, runner from Beit Safafa

[00:17:16] Kristel:  Did you run this morning with the Right to Movement?

Mousa: Yes I did

Kristel:  And where are you from?

Mousa: I’m from Beit Safafa.

Kristel:   And if you are from Beit Safafa, you come all the way in the morning just for this run. So it must be important for you?

[00:17:30] Mousa: Yes actually, it’s very important. It’s not my first time or the last time I’ve been like running for four years with the Right to Movement.

[00:17:37] Kristel: Did you ever run the marathon that they organized in Bethlehem?

[00:17:41] Mousa:  I only did two halfs. And I was preparing for the full marathon when Corona came. So it wasn’t very ideal for me.

[00:17:49] Kristel:  And how was it to run that half Marathon?

[00:17:52] Mousa: It’s very challenging because when you run in the refugee camps, you expect every other obstacle that might have, and that might happen to you.

[00:18:00] And you can like crack your ankle in some tunnels or something. So it’s not very ideal, but you know, it’s our daily routine. So we are very used to it.

Kristel:  What are you doing?

[00:18:21] George:  We are preparing to make shakshuka after the run.

Kristel:  What is shakshuka?

George:  Shakshuka is a Palestinain, no I’m not going to claim it’s Palestinian, it’s very debatable. It could be Tunisian. I think the last I heard it’s Tunisian. That’s the most thing I feel it’s true, like I can associate with. It’s basically tomato paste, strong tomato paste. We bring our own tomato and then little bit of garlic and onion. Some people put onions and some people do not. And then eggs, you cook it together. It becomes like a nice paste. It’s exciting.

Preparing bonfire for shakshuka

[00:18:51] Kristel: So you’re breaking the wood for the bonfire.

[00:19:06] Mousa is cutting the onions that they are going to use to prepare the shakshuka and then they are coming in with the “bandora” now, with the tomatoes, and they’re preparing a bonfire. So after the run, there is a fresh shakshuka breakfast.

Cutting tomatoes

[00:19:49] Kristel:  I saw you this morning. I was sitting in my car, waiting for the runners to come back to interview for the podcast. And I saw you arriving on your bike. And I was like, wow, this woman is coming here on her own, by her bike. And I am Dutch. So I love biking. I used to do everything by bike. So I wonder, do you do this alone? Do you do this on your own?

[00:20:10] Amany: Well I just got my bike last year, probably in July or June. I usually go like inside the city, like to buy grocery and stuff. This is the first time I come here. So I just wanted to try it. Cause it’s a mountain bike. I wanted to try the feeling of mountain biking and I actually loved it.

Amany on her bike

[00:20:33] Kristel:  And do you know the people from the Right to Movement and you knew that they were running or it was by coincidence?

[00:20:39] Amany:]I am a Right to Movement member since almost seven years now. So I knew, but I came late.

[00:20:45] Kristel:  Yeah. It’s Saturday morning, very early. I understand. So you’ve been running also the marathon.

[00:20:51] Amany: Yes, I did three half marathons or four or three, I think. And one full marathon.

[00:20:58] Kristel: When was the full marathon?

[00:21:00] Amany:  2016 in Beirut.

[00:21:04] Kristel:  Oh not here, in Beirut?!

Amany: Yeah. Oh, I did the Beirut marathon.

Kristel:  Did you go as an individual or with a group,

Amany: With the Right to Movement.

Kristel:  As a group, you signed up and you all went together?

Amany: We went as a delegation.

Kristel: What is Right to Movement for you in your life?

[00:21:19] Amany:  I’ve always loved running, but as a kid, I was a bit intimidated to go on the streets as a girl, because you know the mentality here about a girl running in the streets, which I think has changed a bit. So when I heard about Right to Movement,  hen I was in university, I decided to join.

[00:21:39] And ever since I haven’t been intimidated to go and run even on my own in the streets. So for me, I feel that it’s an empowerment source for me. Yeah. I can just do what I love without caring about what people think. Yeah.

[00:21:56] Kristel: Yatikelafya [May God give you health]

Right to Movement t-shirt “We run to tell a different story”

[00:22:04] Hey, George, you also wrote an article for 972 magazine, and it was called the Palestinians ultimate guide to crossing an Israeli checkpoint. And this is also something about the movement and the right to movement and the checkpoints that stop your movement. Can you share with us a few of these guidelines?

[00:22:23] George: [00:22:23] Yeah, happily. I mean, it was a bit of a sarcastic attempt to highlight, you know, what we have to go through constantly at Israeli checkpoints. Not everybody knows this, but some of the Palestinians, like myself, are able to drive into Israel in their cars. The roads that we take to drive into Israel, are the same roads as the settlers take.

[00:22:49] So what happens is that your mission would be, is to come off on the checkpoint as a settler. That would be your best way at getting through the checkpoint without being stopped. Over the years, every Palestinian who has this ability, have developed his own skills of how to cross the checkpoint without being stopped. Being stopped  at a checkpoint is not technically the worst that could happen to a Palestinian, you know, like compared to most of the Palestinians do anything to be able to cross a checkpoint, even stopping or not, but it’s quite annoying and it wastes your time and it’s, you know, when you’re driving and you see a car, ahead of you with an Israeli in it, and he’s not being stopped, a Jewish Israeli and he is not being stopped, you feel kind of, I don’t want to be stopped either.

So you start developing these skills and I’ve had the opportunity to have experience on how to do this, you know, learn by doing. So I was trying to tell people what are some of the things that you could do. And few of the most interesting ones is raising a pet.

[00:23:56] I say this because, you know, for some reasons, most of the Israelis, I’m not going to claim to speak on their behalf, but what we learned also from living very close to them is that they downgrade us. So having a pet is not something that they think is very Arabic. So, if you want a nice way to cross the checkpoint without being stopped, you want to have this nice dog next to you.

[00:24:21] And yeah, you know, I’ve had many people do this and you just fly straight forward because they wouldn’t just assume that an Arabic person will have a dog.

[00:24:31] Kristel: That you would be having a dog next to you!

[00:24:33] George:  Yeah. You don’t want to have a cat because it’s not very visible and you don’t want to have a very cute dog because that might give this soldier a reason to stop the car, to play with the dog.

[00:24:45] So you don’t want to do that. So that’s what I was telling people and then, you know, something funny is that, you know, some Arabic norms is that we are very, you know, we’re very friendly. We talk to everybody in the street. So if you’re in your car and you’re driving in the city, you wave to 50 people in the car.

[00:25:04] So you’ll always find Arabic drivers waving their hand already, their hand is just sitting outside the car. Pointing nowhere just sitting outside the car.

Kristel:  Window open

George:   Window open, the hand stretched outside the car. So what I recommend people to do is, you don’t want to do this.

[00:25:23] You want to make sure to close the windows all the time. I mean, it’s not very useful because you wouldn’t be able to greet people anymore, but in this circumstance close the window.

[00:25:38] Kristel:. At least when you are approaching the checkpoint, you will close the window.

[00:25:41] George: Exactly. Opening the window and stretching your arm outside will definitely get you stopped.

[00:25:46] That’s what some of the things I would do. And then if women are in the car and they’re smoking,that’s also something that will get you around, because again, it’s the same reason as the first advice, you know, because a Palestinian woman, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and use your podcast Kristel to recommend Palestinian women to smoke.

[00:26:11] But at least I, I mean, it’s a useful way to get through the checkpoint because again, it wouldn’t be an Arabic woman if she’s smoking in the car. So I’m, uh, yeah. And yeah, these are just like some of the examples, but they, they, I mean, they all fall together with the message of Right to Movement, you know. And what we do in Right to Movement is really beyond description in a way, because it’s just an exciting project.

You know, I tell people one of the main objectives that we come to learn about what we do is connectivity between Palestinians, you know, many people in Hebron and would not have ever had the opportunity to have friends in Haifa if it wasn’t for the group.

[00:26:47] Or Jaffa, people in Jaffa wouldn’t have had the opportunity to connect with people from Bethlehem or Ramallah or Jericho. So we feel what we do enable us to create, you know, often Palestinians, because we are very segregated, we tend to forget, or the days pass on and move forward and you end up caring about your personal life and personal problems. And then you forget that connectivity. You just start losing it. One of the most beautiful things is this connection between Palestinians and creating more and more channels of communication.

[00:27:25] That they learn about our life, we learn about their life. We defeat stereotypes. You know, we put stereotypes on each other. We defeat these stereotypes. We become friends with people. It’s just so exciting.

Some of the things we’re mostly proud of is when we get people from the groups to participate in international marathons, we have actually had a woman delegation, a complete women delegation participating in Amsterdam, half marathon.

[00:27:46] Few years ago, we’ve been in over 20 races globally. We have been in Chicago, in San Francisco, in Santiago, in Zanzibar, in Cape town, in Beirut. We’ve been in Germany, Cologne. We’ve been in Reggia Emilia in Italy. We have been in Copenhagen. We’ve been in Edinburgh. We’ve been in Wales in London. And all over the world, we’ve had the chance to send runners and that’s been really great way to communicate about what we do and build grassroots connection with the groups globally through sports again.

[00:28:19] Kristel: Is there any good media coverage about that?

[00:28:22] George:  We have, we have been covered when it happens. We have been covered.

The beautiful part of it is that it’s also self sponsored. In Palestine, whatever you do, you’re always required to receive donation from some way or another.

[00:28:40] And that’s totally understandable in many ways. But the beauty of what we do is that we are a grassroots volunteer organization that we don’t take money from any organization. We’re not an NGO, we’re not registered and we want to stay this way. It’s beautiful because it’s less of a headache in a way, but the most exciting part about it is that we maintain our credibility and we maintain our opinion in what we want to do.

[00:29:04] And our direction. How do we raise money to finance such activities? We organize hikes. We organize dinner parties. We sell t-shirts. Everybody who wants a Right to Movement t-shirt can contact you, Kristel, they can be put in touch with me if they would like to buy one and then it helps us to promote what we do, to promote the group.

Right to Movement t-shirt

[00:29:24] And also raise some money for the group activity. So when we go to Belfast, for example, or to Ireland, we connect with a running group or any group that will help us, for example, find a place to stay. So here we saved half of the cost. Then we start selling t-shirts and doing the hikes all over the year and we say, okay, we’ll sponsor half of the ticket and every participant must pay the other half.

[00:29:49] So it’s in a way cumulative effort. To collect money to make that trip happen. And we think that’s the most exciting part of what we do is really a volunteer grassroots organization.

[00:30:02] Kristel: I will make sure to post some links on the show notes of the podcast so that people can also go and check out your Facebook page and website, Instagram and so on.

[00:30:12] George: That would be amazing.

[00:30:13] Kristel:  George, before we finish, I’m just curious in general, about sports in Palestine, if you know anything about it, because. What are the types of sports that are popular? And is there any leagues or any people that do sports on higher levels?

[00:30:28] George: Sure I play in the Palestinian excellent basketball league. It’s called excellent in Palestine. It wouldn’t be excellent anywhere else, but we have actually very decent basketball team. As we speak now, the Palestinian basketball national team is getting ready to leave to Jordan tomorrow, to participate in the qualifications for FIBA, the Federation of basketball Asia cup.

[00:30:53]  We will be playing three games with Kazakhstan, I think. And two games with Jordan and one game would Sri Lanka. So we’ll be playing these games in the upcoming two weeks. And they’re very important because we need a win, or two wins, I think, we’ll make it to the FIBA Asia cup, which we have played in 2015 and done a big surprise by beating one of the best Asian teams with NBA players on it, the Philippines.

[00:31:20] That was an incredible day for all Palestinian basketball players. We have a league for women, we have a basketball league for women. We have quite good football league that is paid. It’s the only league that’s paid, the excellent league. Every other league is a hobby league. So I play in the excellent basketball league, it’s for free, you don’t get paid. Only the men’s excellent soccer or football league gets paid.

Palestinian National Basketball team

Our basketball team is probably the most achieving, in terms of achievements. Our football team is decent, but they haven’t had a lot of successes lately. And we have some individual successes that happened in judo, in running and swimming.

[00:32:03] So it’s not a big scene, but it’s growing, it’s growing. I’ve recently been exposed to more and more academies for teaching kids sports at young age, like soccer and football and volleyball and tennis. And I think that will uplift the level of the games in the future.

[00:32:21] Kristel:  And I can see on the Facebook, all the posts about all the different hikes that are being organized in Palestine. And I think that hiking and walking in general is also something that over the past years has been really growing and becoming more successful or people are more interested in that than before.

[00:32:38] George:  We have a really beautiful hiking trail in Palestine that we in Right to Movement constantly, it’s one of the ways how we bring all the groups together.

We’ve had hikes with 300 people. It’s a bit crazy, but it’s also fun.

We have a hiking trail in Palestine that is mostly known to be for tourists as Masar Ibraham. At the moment, the name has changed to the Palestinian Heritage Trail. I actually recommend you Kristel to have somebody from the trail on your podcast.

[00:33:09] It’s a 330 kilometer hiking trail. The most interesting aspect for me in it is that it’s very diverse. You know, some of it is desert, some of it is mountains, water green. You are exposed to different landscapes and different kinds of food, different kind of atmosphere or weather.

[00:33:31] I’ve hiked the whole trail. Not in the same trip. I’ve had the chance to do the whole trail in different days. So that was exciting.

[00:33:37] Kristel: I’m so jealous. Wow. That’s my dream is to do the whole trail. I’m all the time telling myself when the kids grow up a little bit, either without them or with them. I want to do the whole trail. Wow. Yeah, I will do an episode about it. I already talked to George Rishmawi about it.

I have another question. I’ve heard many foreigners and also definitely Israelis say that if Palestinians had the freedom of movement, that this would be a security threat to Israel. What would you say to these people?

[00:34:11] George: I would say to them that, to me, that’s entirely a false argument and the proof is that any Palestinian can still go into Israel at the moment, if they really wanted to do harm, they could also do so.

[00:34:28] The truth is that, you know, we want to live in peace. We want to achieve our freedom, our just peace. As I told you, what I wrote in the article that you referred to just shows you how simple it is for anybody to cross in a car and get into Israel. Another example, what happened in COVID was very interesting.

[00:34:47] During the first closure of the COVID, the Palestinian authority announced that it prevented the workers who work in Israel from accessing Israel, because there was a high number of COVID cases in Israel. So what the Israeli authorities did to counter this move and bring the workers to work in Israel open places in the separation wall, or just open it without any security. So people can cross legally or illegally and just access their workplace. And that just like shows you how it’s kind of like, well, aren’t you afraid of the Palestinians that you’re talking about in the media that they will cross?

[00:35:29] And if they built that wall for security purposes, they didn’t need to take with it further and further Palestinian land, you know. They’ve decided to build it inside Palestinian land, cut Palestinian cities from each other.

[00:35:45] Kristel: Yeah it’s very clear when they opened it, they wanted to have the workers because they need them for their construction sites and all of a sudden, the whole argument about security wasn’t there anymore. So if you wanted to go for a run, you know, you could technically run from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, if you really wanted to, you could, in a few hours.

I remember I had a friend, he was from a village near Ramallah and it relates to what you said before.

[00:36:12] He was a biker and he would put on his biking gear, go on his bike, and then he would cross the checkpoint and Israeli soldiers would never even stop him because they could not imagine that a Palestinian would go on a bike ride, crossing that checkpoint to go towards Tel Aviv, but he did. And he did it many times and they never stopped him because of that stereotypical idea that the soldiers had of what a Palestinian looks like.

[00:36:39] George:  Exactly.

Kristel: What are the activities that are on your schedule for the spring? Do you have anything special coming up?

[00:36:46] George: I mean, we’ll keep monitoring the COVID situation. One of the things we’ve been doing right before COVID we started doing, and we want to continue to do when we are able to, is we organize sports activities with cleaning.

[00:37:03] So we get people to come together and clean the whole area, few kilometers while people are running, we provide everybody with gloves and bags and we say, hey, we’re collecting trash. It’s a lot of squats. People do it while they’re running while they’re joking. And we we’re able to clean up whole areas.

[00:37:24] So we plan to organize some of these few events, more like this after the Corona, or maybe also in the spring, if we’re able to do so.

Kristel:  Do you call it plogging?  

George: We call it plogging. We learned that it started in Sweden somewhere. We saw the video on social media and we said, okay, we’ll do the same. And it’s been exciting.

Right to Movement plogging activity: picking while jogging
Plogging result

[00:37:43] Kristel:  It’s great, George. That means that once the world opens up again and people want to come and visit Palestine, they will find it clean, at least.

[00:37:52] George:  I wouldn’t make this promise.

[00:37:54] Kristel:  It can only be a disappointment.

[00:38:00] George: [00:38:00] Your listeners can hold you accountable to this. Not me.

[00:38:04] Kristel: [00:38:04] Now I have to search for areas where to take them.

Thank you very much, George. That was really inspiring. I will post links in the podcast show notes and on the website so that people can learn more. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed talking to

[00:38:19] George:  Me too. Thank you, Kristel.


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