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Racing Through Palestine and Israel



 

Where do you stand? Is it alongside Palestine or Israel? Both have killed.


On Sunday, I stood on the Yasco track on Old Parham Road. As I waited for the Hurricane Power Athletic Club’s race to begin with my boys, students in the running club I advise, and about twenty locals, I thought about the Gaza Strip.


Palestine or Israel? Muslim or Jewish? Is it really that simple?


No


The easy route is to divide the groups into two fractions and align with the popular sentiments among your family, peers, government, and community. It's harder to gather the facts about the conflict and make an informed decision.


Several hours before the race's start, I sat and read articles about protests and encampments on college campuses in the United States. NYU, UCLA, and Columbia experienced violent clashes between protestors and police. The disturbing reports pushed me to learn more about the situation in Gaza.


I read how the Israeli Defense Forces killed an estimated 34,000 Palestinians. Without regard for human life, they took out soldiers and civilians. However you slice the numbers, it is genocide.


It's happening over there, but at times, it feels near.

"Appreciate this moment," the wind whispered as I partially listened to the event organizer explain the 10k, 5k, and 2k routes. The opportunity to participate in a road race with my children and students felt like a privilege compared to the dire situation in Palestine. At least 34,000 people never had the chance to experience anything similar to Sunday's special moment.


When the police's late arrival delayed the race's start, I smiled, talked with my wife, and encouraged other race participants, but my mind was elsewhere.


Some of the Palestinians and Israelis who died may have participated in a road race with family, friends, and locals, but none had the chance to experience it like last Sunday. It was another warm morning in the Caribbean, but different in many ways. The sun cooked our skin before 7:00 AM.


Although it may feel routine on some days, life is constantly changing. 

According to reports, on October 7, Hamas stormed the Gaza border, killed 1200, and took 250 hostages. I don't want to paint the picture of Hamas as an innocent coalition of concerned citizens. Multiple sources indicate they killed, raped, and committed other heinous violations of human rights.


Should we penalize Palestine and Israel? Is Israel only defending their selves against vicious, unprovoked violence? Again, I wish things were that simple.


The conflict predates October 7, 2023. The New York Times claims it started in the 1920s. Unresolved matters over land, housing, religious differences, and other factors watered the roots of this spudding disaster.


If we only focus on the number of people killed or the events of October 7, perhaps it's easy to pick a side. Let's support peace efforts until we can figure it out.

How do you do that? I don't have the answer.


The best solutions align with context. You can support relief efforts online and in your community. Start where you are and move from there.


On Sunday, when the race organizer finally blew the whistle, we started on the protected track and moved into the traffic-ridden streets. We ran at our best paces to finish 10k, 5k, or 2k distances. Eleven members of the AUA running club participated in the road race for the first time.




We made history while the war continued. Regardless of how fast I ran, I couldn't shake the challenges in the Near East from my consciousness.


It's uncanny how running mirrors life. We start from the same point. Along the way, we lose family, friends, and maybe parts of ourselves en route to a finish line.


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