Hundreds of people are once again set to take part in the Big Ride for Palestine, which this year is holding two events in London and Manchester to raise awareness about the ongoing suffering of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and siege.
This year the Big Ride is hosting two events – one in UK capital London on 27 July and one the following weekend, on 3 August, in Manchester – in a bid to make the ride accessible to everyone. After covering 36 miles, the London ride will culminate in a celebration of Palestinian culture, food and music featuring Mark Thomas, a British comedian and author of “Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel’s Separation Barrier. For Fun”.
This year’s event is supported by a number of pro-Palestine organisations, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), War on Want, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Director of PSC, Ben Jamal, said the Big Ride is “a fantastic way of combining a love of cycling with awareness-raising of the human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians and their need for solidarity”.
He continued: “PSC is proud to support this great event, now in its 5th year, and would encourage as many people as possible to get involved and show their support for the rides.”
The Big Ride is run by a committed team of volunteers, many of whom attended last week’s Palestine Expo, Europe’s biggest Palestine exhibition which featured speakers such as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and grandson of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.
Big Ride volunteers spoke to MEMO at PalExpo, explaining how they got involved with the organisation and why they believe it is important to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.
Alberto Zerda-Noriega explained that he takes part in the Big Ride because, for him, “Palestine is the greatest injustice in the world”.
“I cannot think of a better way to raise awareness,” Alberto told MEMO, “than cycling with a group of 100 or 200 companions, talking to people who stop you on the road because they wonder what’s going on – you get to engage with people and tell them what’s happening in Palestine.”
One of the Big Ride’s London coordinators, Mahfuz Miah, explained that he was attracted by the diversity of its volunteers in last year’s event.
“Fundamentally, the reason we’re riding is for Palestine; the people that we’re supporting are diverse, so it’s great that the people who support the cause also come from a range of backgrounds,” Mahfuz explained.
Mahfuz also addressed the lack of information available in the mainstream media about the Palestinian cause, saying: “I think it’s important for people to recognise there is an inequality occurring [in Palestine], that the issue is being specifically pushed out of the media agenda and it needs to come to the forefront.”
Since the first Big Ride in 2015, the initiative has raised almost £150,000 ($188,000) for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a charity which specialises in the rehabilitation of children in Gaza who have been traumatised by multiple wars and the ongoing Israeli siege of the Strip.
Gaza Director of MECA, Dr Mona El Farra, said of the Big Ride that,
with every mile they cycle, those participating […] are protesting against 72 years of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. They are sending a message to the Palestinian people, and to the people of Gaza in particular, that they are not abandoned.
This year’s ride also coincides with the fifth anniversary of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, in which over 2,200 Palestinians died and more than 11,000 were wounded. Over 500 of those killed were children, while countless more were left with long-term psychological scars.