The Cycling4Gaza (C4G) ride, which will take place from 3-7 October, will depart from Boston on the USA's east coast and ride the 400 kilometres south to New York City. The ride aims to raise $200,000 which will be donated to Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) to support the almost two million Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Head of Cycling4Gaza, Zara Hannoun, explained:
After visiting the Gaza Strip in March, [I realised] the people living in Gaza, despite their dire circumstances and limited access to all basic human needs, simply give; they give love and support to their families, they give care and aid to their friends and neighbors and they give their lives for their freedom. How can we not do more?
Hannoun added: "Joining the C4G committee made me realise my enthusiasm and dedication towards working for a cause, that I define success by putting a smile on a child's face, and gave me a sense of accomplishment from bringing people together to make a difference."
This year's ride is of particular significance in that it marks the tenth year of Cycling4Gaza. The charity was founded in the wake of Israel's brutal 2008 assault on Gaza, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, in which 1,391 Palestinians were killed. In the same operation, five Israeli forces and no Israeli civilians were killed.
Since 2008 the charity has cycled over 3,000 kilometres across ten countries, in doing so raising over $1.95 million for Gaza. Last year C4G cycled 240 kilometres through Spain, from Ávila to the Spanish capital Madrid, raising over $200,000 for mental health projects in Gaza. Mental health problems in Gaza are particularly acute – children who are 12 years of age have already experienced three assaults on the Strip, leaving many with lasting trauma. Given that over 40 per cent of the population of Gaza is under 15 years old, this means approximately 800,000 children are at risk of suffering long-term psychological scars as a result of exposure to war and violence.
Other charities have also undertaken cycle rides to raise money for Gaza. In August hundreds of people participated in the Big Ride for Palestine, which cycled for three days before arriving outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Like Cycling4Gaza, the Big Ride was inspired by Israel's continued siege of the Palestinian enclave and the atrocities it committed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. One of the Big Ride's organisers Owen told MEMO 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." He sees events like the Big Ride and Cycling4Gaza as just one way to take action, and stresses that "to be concerned about Palestine, you just need to be human".