Thursday 18 May 201707:45 am
Away from all the commotion and hustle of city life, and the halo of light from the urban sky glow, we enter the realm of green fields and wildlife, in the deep valley cut through by a water current, leaving behind us the rhythm of our lives and attempting an unmediated communion with nature. A group of cyclists, who call themselves Horizon, have sought to revive a sense of the adventure of nature in the Palestinian countryside. They kicked off their experiment at the beginning of the year, with minimal equipment; members need only a bicycle, a helmet, and the passion and energy to see the journey through to the end. [caption id="attachment_69978" align="alignnone" width="700"] Mar Saba Monastery (the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas), eat of Bethlehem[/caption] [h2]An Environmentally Friendly Initiative[/h2] At the beginning of the year, a group of friends established Horizon and began organizing discovery tours through the historical areas in the West Bank. They called on others to join the tours, with small membership fees based on the destination. Though the idea did not emerge as a youth initiative per se, but rather as a gathering for friends, it nonetheless attracted significant interest, reinventing the bicycle as both a means for transport and an environmentally-friendly tool to rediscover the hidden attractions of the country. [h2]Rediscovering Palestine[/h2] The Horizon team initially set off on a trip from Nablus to the neighboring town of Sabastia. The idea was simply and things went smoothly in practice, with a group of no more than 14 people, until the group began to grow, and the purpose expanded to exploring all of Palestine. Having achieved their goal of acquainting themselves with the various Palestinian cities, the group has grown to over 40 members, and organizes weekly bike tours in various cities and towns. Alaa Hamouz, 26, the group’s founder and the man behind the idea, tells Raseef22: “The purpose of the bike tours is to show the world the power of the Palestinian dream, and the ability of the youth to contribute to all areas, particularly in sports.” “Through the tours, we wanted to reinforce the historical and touristic value of these towns and cities among the youth, and to provide them with information that they previously lacked,” he adds. Hamouz further notes that they launched a Facebook page for the group, through which they share the pictures of the landscapes discovered on their tours. He adds that the initiative has been widely welcomed. [h2]Self-Funded[/h2] The organizers of the initiative rely on their own funds and money donated by members, as they do not receive any financial support from other organizations. They hope to expands to be able to visit every city and town in Palestine. The organizers plan on holding tours in the summer and setting up camping sites in various areas, to ensure that the cyclists will receive sufficient shelter from the high temperatures during the summer tours. “The cyclists pass through various cities that neighbor villages in which Israeli settlements have been set up. They have become familiar with the daily violations committed against residents of these towns by the settlers.” [h2]A Distinctive Guide[/h2] Bicycles make for distinctive guides and an easy method of transport, allowing cyclists to reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible by other means of transport. Hamouz notes that toward the end of last April, he took a solo trip in Jordan for 14 consecutive days, trekking through 800 kilometers of new land on his bike. The trips in Palestine were suspended until he returned. Hisham Zumlut, 26, from Hebron (Al-Khalil), discovered new things about various areas in the West Bank that he did not know before joining Horizon. “There was so much I was unaware of regarding the beauty and terrain of Palestine, but now, after joining Horizon, I have learned so much. What really caught my attention was how happy and welcoming the locals were,” he tells Raseef22. [caption id="attachment_69981" align="alignnone" width="700"] The view from Mount Gerizim in Nablus[/caption] Zumlut explains that the members endure various difficulties, most notably financial ones and the lack of support from any official bodies, as well as the deteriorated security situation in certain areas. However, they have held fast to their mission, in defiance of the numerous attempts to stop them by the Israeli Defense Forces, crossing the borders and checkpoints on their bikes. [h2]Realizing the Dream[/h2] [caption id="attachment_69982" align="alignnone" width="700"] Al-Hijaz Road, the town of Bal'a[/caption] Hanaa’ al-Ra’y, 24, from Nablus, is one of the participants in Horizon’s discovery tours. “Roaming through the archaeological sites and the Palestinian villages and seeing them in real life for the first time was a dream of mine, as well as the group’s founder, and this dream has become a reality,” she tells Raseef22. “Following the success of the initiative, we hope to expand our activities past the borders of Palestine, to show the world that we, as Palestinians, have a dream we seek to realize, to cross borders and represent our country just as other athletes do.” The members hope that bicycles will become a more popular method of transport among young Palestinians, capturing their passion as well as helping overcome congestion problems. In this regard, they plan on contacting the various municipalities in the West Bank to designate areas for parking bicycles. The initiative is distinguished in being a youth-oriented one. Its members decided to ignore their surrounding obstacles, seeking out exciting new adventures, taking with them nothing but their smiles, a helmet, and two wheels spinning over endless expanses of Palestinian land.