Riding is way of thumbing the nose at occupation and connecting with the land
Tue 10 Mar 2020
Are you annoyed by the anti-motorcycle barriers or speed bumps on your local bike path? Spare a thought for Palestinian bicycle advocates. According to the UN, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank imposes 705 obstacles to the free movement of Palestinians.
These obstacles include military checkpoints where only those with permits can pass, a 440-mile separation barrier, and roving patrols that can turn a joyous bike ride into humiliating roadside detention.
For Palestinian paramedic Sohaib Samara and other cyclists in the region, pedalling is not just about fresh air and exercise; it’s intensely, unavoidably political.
On one ride when he and a friend were pulled over by an Israeli army patrol, Samara says he heard the soldiers asking, in Hebrew, whether they should shoot the pair in the arms.
“I was not afraid for myself because at the end of the day, if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die,” said Samara. “But I was worried that if I tried to defend myself or even argue [that the soldiers] had no right to stop us, they might later blow up my family’s house.”
“Your brain starts to wander in dark places when, really, you just want to keep cycling,” he added.
Riding around the West Bank is a way of thumbing the nose at occupation, but it is also a way of connecting with the land; bicycling as a form of affirmative action.