Hundreds of people are set to cycle from Coventry to London in support of Palestine as part of the Big Ride for Palestine 2018 due to take place from 3–5 August.
The Big Ride for Palestine, an initiative run by a committed team of volunteers, calls on people of all ages and abilities to join them as they cycle to raise awareness about the ongoing suffering of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and siege.
Big Ride volunteer, Jason Hussein, tells MEMO, it’s “more than just a bike ride. It’s more than a political act. It’s one piece of a huge movement taking place across our beautiful planet.” Jason, who also works at a legal centre for immigration and welfare rights, explains that “for three days of the year, I truly feel part of something bigger. A palpable and visceral wave carries us through cities, villages and housing estates.”
With each rotation of our pedals, we resist the continuing injustice of a people and send a piercing cry that we stand with them.
Coordinating this volunteer team is Owen. Owen has been involved with the Big Ride since 2014, when Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza led to the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, including 547 children. Owen says that he was “outraged by the sight of hospitals, schools and UN centres being indiscriminately bombed by Israel, and wanted to convert my disbelief into action.” Owen believes that the Big Ride’s role in drawing attention to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is vital, and he stresses that “to be concerned about Palestine, you just need to be human.”
Owen’s view is echoed by Ellen, one of five directors in the Big Ride team. In 2015, Ellen spent several months working for a human rights charity at Birzeit University near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. She describes how, during her time living in the West Bank, “I witnessed the daily oppression of the Palestinian people; the discrimination, the violence, the inhumanity of the situation.” She explains:
For me, what I witnessed was unequivocally an apartheid regime. Roads Palestinians or ‘Arabs’ couldn’t travel down; the cages Palestinians would have to travel through daily; the ID cards Palestinians are issued with from the State of Israel that restrict their movement based on where they were born.
When she returned, Ellen’s experience motivated her to become active in supporting the Palestinian cause, in turn leading her to get involved with the Big Ride. Now in its fourth year, the Big Ride has successfully raised over £100,000 for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which specialises in the rehabilitation of children in Gaza who have been traumatised by multiple wars and the ongoing Israeli siege of the Strip.
This work is vital, according to Dr Mona El-Farra, former vice president of the Red Crescent Society in Gaza and Big Ride endorser. Mona explains that:
With every mile you ride, you are protesting against 70 years of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. You are sending a message to the Palestinian people in general, and to the people in Gaza in particular, that they are not abandoned. You are bringing hope to millions of Palestinian children for whom life has been scarred by trauma and fear. We appreciate your solidarity; we salute you all for your humanity.
You can sign up to join the ride and get more information here, registration closes on 25 July.