Wednesday 8 October 2014

One step at a time will help you conquer any mountain.

Most of my friends will already know this but for those of you that don't, I went on hike travelling from Bethlehem to the Dead Sea. We had stumbled across the event which was the first of its kind, through 'Right to Movement.' Right to Movement are running groups organised around the world. The purpose is to shed light on the human right Freedom of Movement and its restrictions internationally. It started after Palestine organised a Marathon In order to promote the right to movement. 
This time it wasn't a run, it was a hike. We were told to take a liter of water per person as we would be walking for around 6 hours and then we'd arrive at the Dead Sea. Exciting right? A little more than I've trekked before but would be a good chance to do a tad more. Well boy was I wrong!
After about 4 hours, we arrived at the cliff edge, it was spectacular! Up until this point it had been a fairly simple hike, up and down steady inclines and smooth descents. The sea was just several hundred feet below us surrounded by beautiful mountains and a view of the shore at the other side. It was mesmerizing!  Excitement drove me to search for the route down, the idea of relaxing in the sea now that I was so close.
Boy was I deluded! What we didn't realise was that the hike had only just started. We walked sometime heading around the mountains until we stopped looking down a huge drop. Taking a route one at a time, we slowly made our way down. With no railing for support we watched as stones crumbled under our feet and dropped off the mountain. To make it worse, rocks caused you to slip sending your heart racing like Seabiscuit in the 1938 Pimlico Special! That was nothing when I found myself on the ground, my heart had done a full leap straight from my chest. I just remember two hands around me lifting me straight from the ground and realising I'd been fortunate to only find a scrape and to still been on the edge rather than over it.
Reaching the bottom people collapsed to the ground trying to drink the last of their water and breathing steadily to calm the nerves that shadowed them. The descent had drained much of our energy but we were there, 6 hours from the start and all that was left was to follow the path to the sea; hurray!! 
Wrong again! We weren't near the sea, in fact we still had to climb over another mountain. Yes over the top and back down! But worse, there was going to be no swim in the Sea awaiting us at the end, no cool refreshing paddle or water fights, nothing! Occupied Palestine was on “lockdown” for the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur. For the first time in over 30 years it coincided with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Israeli forces sealed off the West Bank. this included restricting the use of the Dead Sea to Israelis and to people who could pay. Since when have you ever known it to be illegal to spend time on your local beach? What happened to humanity where freedom became little more than a word and repression came in the form of land sealed off by a wall and security. Oh wait, didn't I just describe a prison? Except even prisoners in most countries, receive more rights and a better way of life. 
Climbing up the mountain took more from me than I knew I had to give. Knowing I wouldn't even be within 30ft of the sea, somehow added an extra weight to each leg as I pulled myself up a rock at a time. My annoyance soon became a burning anger. Anger towards Israeli forces, the Israeli government, the British government for leaving the Palestinians years before, for never returning and leaving them in such neglect to the people we'd thrust upon them and to America for putting in the money, enabling Israeli to have the power that they abuse. At this moment everything did become black and white but I didn't care, it powered me further up the mountain and I suddenly felt part of something bigger.
I'm not going to pretend that my feelings alone spurred me to the top. No, on the contrary I made it after having several breaks, being dehydrated, burnt and nearly snapping at a women who wanted prove her language skills, putting on a crappy English accent, asking loads of questions and saying she wanted to know me. Now even if I had any breath left in me to speak, she would have driven me nuts but instead I focused on getting oxygen to my lungs and stumbling further up the rocks.
Reaching the top was an overwhelming achievement. I'm not fit. When I travel I have a tenancy to go on long walks and I enjoy a variety of sports but I don't regularly maintain a healthy fitness lifestyle. To me this was my Mount Everest. My reward was knowing I hadn't given up and I had completed something that I wouldn't normally do but had always admired those who did. 
Unfortunately, the celebrations were short lived as we discovered Israeli soldiers had't let our buses through to collect us and we actually had over 4 more mil of walking to go to them instead. With trembling legs and no water I carried on, yet another painful reminded to what the Israeli forces/ government was doing to the Palestinians.
Nothing justifies what happens here, this being only a couple of things, but I would love to see peoples react back home, when they're told they can't see their family for Christmas, or police stopping local buses passing through your towns because its too close to another town. It's not right and if it happened at home you would react, so why not react now. You know its wrong and if you've read my blogs you know a little of whats happening here. It has become your responsibility. Knowledge is power, use it!

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