This weekend I had the honor of participating in UNRWA’s 5th annual Gaza 5K: Moving For Mental Health. I say honor because my connection to this cause is relatively new (my gut is to say ‘I’m ashamed to say.’ but I’m working on looking forward, not back). Running around Prospect Park yesterday, surrounded by more than 1,000 other participants, I felt welcomed into a movement. Here’s what we were running for, in the words of the UNRWA:
Unfortunately, the United States’ government recent decided to cut all funding to UNRWA, leaving the Agency facing an unprecedented funding crisis. That means the 5 million Palestinian refugees who receive education, primary healthcare, relief and social services, and emergency assistance through UNRWA could lose those resources.
Reading this, I hope you understand how essential of a cause this is. If you don’t, I highly recommend you pick up The Way To The Spring by Ben Ehrenreich. It was given to me by Tanya Keilani, who has patiently taught me over the years I’ve known her, and for whose empathy and grace I am so grateful.
The 5K this weekend marks the anniversary of two occasions:
First, a year has passed in which each Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children, have taken to the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, to demand the right of return for refugees and the end of the illegal Israeli blockade. Called the Great March of Return,’ it continues to be largely nonviolent, though Israeli forces have killed 195 Palestinians and injured nearly 29,000 people. [ Learn more here. ]
Second, it happens to take place during a work event in Israel that I attended last year. I could not, knowing what I know, attend again. It was as beautiful a coincidence as possible that I spent the same weekend, one year later, celebrating and supporting the people of Gaza, who deserve to live and thrive too.
This weekend wasn’t about the run (though that was fun too), but about the cause. I will not soon forget the 13-year-old who raised over $24K, or the speeches that connected our lives to others halfway around the world. Nor will I forget the joy of the post-race dabke or the pride emanating from my partner who endlessly supports me. It was a day to remember—yet I somehow hope against all hope that it need not happen again next year, that somehow by then Palestine will be free.
Major thanks to my family & friends who donated:
And of course, thank you to Salah Zalatimo who welcomed me onto his team and who embodies leading with heart.