Irish Cyclists Arrive in Gaza After Trans-Europe Bike Ride —Minus Support Van
Cycling close to double the distance of the Tour de France, four Irish cyclists journeyed through 14 countries, from Ireland to Gaza. The team of six students, including two in a support vehicle, arrived in Jerusalem Aug. 3 and attempted to cross into Gaza on Aug 4. They made it through on Aug. 5, without the van. Their 4,000 km cycle aimed to raise money in support of an emergency appeal to provide for neo-natal care and medical resources for burn victims in Gaza.
It was Eoghan Quinn’s idea. The 21-year-old town-planning student is a type-1 diabetic, and after he learned of the restrictions on medical supplies reaching Gaza he was appalled.
“As a diabetic, I am completely dependant on constant access to medicine… If I had diabetes out there, I wouldn’t actually live. Without medical supplies, I’d have no possibility of living. That’s how I started thinking about it, by putting myself in their position,” Eoghan said.
They set off on their arduous journey from Ireland on June 22 and cycled over 150 km. a day, resting only once a week. “We are really looking forward to reaching Gaza,” said cyclist Ronan Sheehan. The 21-year-old pharmacy student added: “we have overcome hypothermia in France, several falls, some on busy highways, and survived being chased by wild hounds in central Turkey. It’s been tough but epic.”
The four cyclists, including John Maher (30), have been assisted by a small support crew which includes John Lyttle, 23, from Derry, who said, “I am in absolute awe of the lads for what they have achieved so far and through my background as a student physiotherapist and first aider, I aim to help in any small way in the completion of their mission.” Tom Watts (21), from Sheffield who studies psychology also drove in the back-up vehicle, which they had planned to donate to a rehabilitation hospital that was partially destroyed in the January offensive. Egypt wouldn’t permit the van to pass through the border.
The intrepid travelers have received support from around the world, including a formal motion of commendation passed by the Scottish Parliament and a reception in the Irish Parliament hosted by Irish MPs and Senators. As they traveled through each country, the team documented the trip on their website via an innovative audio blog that let them phone and ‘phlog’ direct to the site.
According to cyclist Gearóid, Eoghan’s 29-year-old brother, a law student, Gaza’s medical infrastructure has been crippled by the two-year-long siege that has led to widespread malnutrition and many preventable deaths. “We are working with the health care charity MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians) to try in some small way to alleviate the situation,” said Gearóid.
“We will continue in our efforts to raise money for our charity (MAP) via our website ,” said Tom Watts. “All monies raised online go directly to their operations on the ground,” the psychology major added.
Contact the project coordinator, Gráinne Quinn for more information. Tel: 00-353-872181545 / 0549-920591. Visit <pathwaystopalestine.com> to read about their trip. Donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians http://www.bmycharity.com/V2/pathwaystopalestine.
Read their wonderful blogs, including one written from Jerusalem as they tried to get permission to cycle to Gaza:
Two nights ago we crossed from Jordan into Israel via the Sheik Hussein Bridge. On our first attempt we arrived too late (8pm) and had to turn back to Irbid, eventually finding a tiny hostel that actually had rooms available. The next morning we stocked up on food and water and prepared for a long day at the crossing.
Without boring you with the details of stripping a support vehicle we were permitted to enter Israel after a mere 7 hour wait. Upon reaching the Green Line, and the West Bank we jumped in the van just as the sun was setting, and yee-hawed our way to Jerusalem, exhausted, excited and a little disoriented.
The road felt like all the other roads, that was until we tried to turn in towards Jericho in search of food. Our headlights caught sight of the typical rubble barricades that prevent access to and from many Palestinian towns. We kept motoring and made it to Jerusalem.
The next day we immediately began planning our entry to Gaza. Its strange, Palestine is so fragmented its hard to know when exactly you have arrived. Pathways to Palestine had arrived in the East Jerusalem, but was really aiming for Gaza. We don’t want to get to comfortable here or declare mission accomplished. We set out to raise awareness about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
People are still living in the rubble from the December invasion, we spoke to Dr. Elessi from Waffa hospital, he regularly keeps contact with us and gives us a glimpse of life in Gaza. He told me that the kids from Al Jaazeera sports club want to host us and cycle with us the length of Gaza, a mere 40km. We so desperately want to make that cycle.
Eoghan still has a good supply of gluten free food and we also wanted to leave all of this in Gaza. Today we will find out if our application to enter Gaza from Israel or Egypt will succeed.
As I write journalists staying in our hostel and heading out to cover the eviction of 52 Palestinians from their houses just around the corner, there is a big international civil society presence here to protest. We have been told that once the family were removed settlers moved in within a matter of hours. Something tells me that PR is not high on the agenda of the authorities here. What hope do the Irish boys in Spandex have of getting in?
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