JERUSALEM, 30 October 2011 – Earlier this month the Shepherd’s Scout group of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour invited their community to come out, come together, and run, bringing back to life a long-standing tradition of ‘town marathons’—races that traverse the streets (and hills) of the small West Bank community of Beit Sahour.
Generations of Beit Sahourians have grown up watching and participating in races like this, but due to lack of funding, town races had not occurred for the last few years.
And so, the young leaders of the Shepherd’s Scout group decided to take on this year’s planning, preparation, and execution themselves. “We are capable of organizing such an event,” the youth said, “and we will prove it to the community.”
The youth decided to call their race the “Freedom Marathon” to inspire the community to continue along the long path toward peace, justice, security, and freedom for Palestine and Israel.
The enthusiasm of the youth was so infectious that soon the Beit Sahour municipality, many local organizations, and the community at large were eager to support and to be a part of the upcoming event.
More than four months of preparation and countless hours of work later, it was a joy for these young leaders to see 380 participants line up to run and countless more community members turn out to cheer on the runners and join in the festivities.
Participants were divided into five different age categories, with different courses for each category. Courses ranged from just under 2 kilometers up to 5 kilometers. Prizes were awarded at the end of the day before a large crowd at the Evangelical Lutheran Church and School property in Beit Sahour.
Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Beit Sahour Mayor Hani Al-Hayek, and the General Leader of the Scouts Mr. Dafer Kassis were on hand to address the attendees and offer their congratulations to the participants.
In his speech, Bishop Younan praised their work of the Shepherd’s Scout group, noting in particular their young, enthusiastic and inclusive leadership that garners much respect in their community; the thoughtful and creative stewardship of their lives and resources; and the responsibility they take up within and for their community and the larger Palestinian society.
Younan pointed out, with joy, the decision of the Shepherd’s Scout group to donate all profits from the event’s activities to the municipality of Beit Sahour for the rejuvenation of the roundabout at the entrance to the town.
Mayor Al-Hayek expressed his great appreciation for the Shepherd’s Scout group and encouraged them in their continued example that they set not only for the community of Beit Sahour, but for Palestine as a whole. He welcomed this year’s event as the first in a new annual tradition to be led by the Shepherd’s Scout group.
Mr. Kassis, in turn, expressed his thanks to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour as a congregation of the ELCJHL for its continued support, to the municipality for their help throughout the preparations, and to the Beit Sahour community whose support helped this idea come to fruition.
The Shepherd’s Scout group in Beit Sahour has been in existence for more than 15 years. Two years ago the group was rejuvenated under the leadership of Mr. Dafer Kassis, the current Group Leader, and other young men and women of Beit Sahour, ranging between the ages of 20 and 30. The Shepherd’s Scout group now has more than 160 active young men and women. It is open to all members of the community, regardless of denomination or religion. Members participate together in the Brass Band and Snare Band, along with various community and leadership capacity building activities, and other recreational activities.
Click here to view photos from the event.