The race for freedom of movement

Dear friends, colleagues and those taking an interest in Gisha’s activities,

Tomorrow, I will run a 160 km (100 mile) “ultra-marathon“, the first 100 mile race to be held in Israel.

Many people have asked me (with varying degrees of concern!) why I am doing this. For me, running is an expression of my desire for freedom – the feeling of moving my body through space, discovering new places and breaking boundaries. My experience with long-distance running has taught me that we human beings are capable of much more than we think.

For the people I meet through my work at Gisha, fulfilling the desire for freedom is also not an easy task. For them, the obstacles are not the limits of oxygen delivery or lactic acid threshold, but rather the obstacles stemming from our reality in this region of the world – a reality of restrictions on the ability to travel, with passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank almost completely blocked. As a result, families are separated, students are prevented from attending their studies, and trade between the two parts of the Palestinian territory is very limited.

Last week, Gisha distributed a video interview with Attorney Fatma Sharif, whose desire for freedom has not yet been realized because of the Israeli military’s refusal to allow her to travel to the West Bank for her Master’s degree studies in democracy and human rights at Birzeit University. Even though no security claims were raised against her, Ms. Sharif’s travel was thwarted because of a sweeping ban on students from Gaza studying at West Bank universities.

Ms. Sharif wanted to travel the 80 km from Gaza City to Birzeit in the West Bank and then return – a total of 160 km – to continue working to promote human rights in general and women’s rights in particular. Her struggle – and that of other Palestinians who want to live normal lives in which they can go to school, access job opportunities, and be with their families – is the real ultra-marathon.

You can help. Gisha’s computer game Safe Passage lets you step into the shoes of a character wishing to travel from Gaza to the West Bank and to learn about the policies that curtail his or her travel. The game also lets you have an impact on the ability of real people, such as Fatma Sharif, to exercise their right to freedom of movement – by signing a letter to the decision-makers demanding a change of policy, by sharing the game with your friends and by supporting Gisha.

Help me – help those living in Gaza and the West Bank – realize our desire for freedom and movement. Play the game (http://www.spg.org.il/), join our call for action, and help Fatma Sharif and others like her exercise their right to freedom of movement.

Also, please – wish me luck tomorrow.

With gratitude,

Sari Bashi,

Executive Director, Gisha

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