UNRWA summer camp in Gaza 311 (R).
(photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)
Gaza means many things to many people, but rarely does it bring to mind a
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Nonetheless, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
for Palestinian refugees is hoping that the coastal territory will bring
hundreds – if not thousands – to take part in the first-ever Gaza Marathon on
May 5. The marathon is being held largely as a fundraiser for UNRWA’s 5th annual
“The idea is that it’s a fundraising for the Gaza summer
games. We supply these games each summer for up to 250,000 children – we have
sporting activities, cultural activities and remedial activities for children
there because the situation is so terrible for them in Gaza,“ UNRWA spokesman
Chris Gunness said Tuesday.
UNRWA is looking to raise $100,000 for the
games. As of Tuesday afternoon its website showed that donors have contributed
“Gaza Marathon is very much about raising money and raising
awareness. It just shows the world that kids in Gaza just want to be like kids
anywhere else in the world. They don’t want to live in this terrible and
locked-up environment,” Gunness said.
Fortunately for the marathon
planners, the mostly flat Gaza Strip is almost exactly the length of a marathon,
at around 42 kilometers from north to south.
According to Gunness, most
of those planning to take part in the run will be local Gazans, volunteers and
employees from UNRWA and other NGOs, as well as a few members of the Palestinian
He added that there are currently no plans to bring any
big-name east African runners to participate.
Gunness said that the
marathon will run from the very far northern tip of the Gaza Strip through Beit
Lahiya, to the seashore, where it will continue down the coastal
However, he said the coastal jaunt could present some difficulties
as it will pass areas such as “Wadi Gaza,” where large amounts of raw sewage
sits in the open air – posing what he calls “a serious health risk“ that “really
On the other hand, he assured that there are no other
war-related risks to be posed, adding that “it will be a very pleasant and fun
Assuming all goes as planned, the Gaza Marathon will take place on
the heels of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv marathons, a fact that is not lost on
“We’ve had the Jerusalem Marathon, the Tel Aviv Marathon – and
now UNRWA is staging the last in a trio of Middle-Eastern marathons: the Gaza
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