The Big Issue : Edition 499
28 THE BIG ISSUE 27 NOV – 10 DEC 2015 IT IS EARLY on what is going to be another baking-hot day in Gaza. Instead of retreating somewhere cool, Fares and Fahed are heading out, trying to maximise precious hours before the heat really sets in. They pick their way through litter and rubble until they find a suitable spot. Then take a deep breath and jump. Fares, 15, and Fahed, 18, have been avid parkour enthusiasts for years. The heat is not going to stop them swinging, vaulting and leaping around the city. And neither, it would seem, is war. Little more than a year ago, conflict in the region meant the area where they live was heavily bombed. More than 2000 people were killed, most of them civilians. Parkour – an ‘extreme’ sport that involves moving rapidly through urban areas, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping and climbing – may seem like a strange activity for those living in such fraught circumstances. But Fares finds it a release in a time of great uncertainty. When he was two years old, Fares’ father was killed in another spate of fighting. His remaining family survive on meagre benefits and support from a United Nations relief agency. “Gaza is an end,” Fares says. “We live here because there is no other choice. This is the life we have, and we just make it work.” And the 20-odd boys and young men in their parkour club do make it work. When they could no longer afford to pay for their clubhouse, they took to the streets, the beaches, abandoned buildings – finding new recreational challenges among the ruins. They aim for five hours practice a day, but when the oppressive heat prevents them from being outside, they practise in the early morning or after 5pm. They are not allowed to travel outside Gaza, but use the internet to stay up to date with parkour trends around the world, especially those adopted by their favourite team in Russia. Fares and Fahed have also used the web to build their own international following among enthusiasts. Parkour can be dangerous. Fares recently broke both his wrists while practising. He still has to be careful while performing some moves and mostly focuses on activities using his legs. But, he says, when flipping off burnt-out buildings and leaping over piles of rubble and twisted metal, he does not feel afraid. “I don’t know about the future; we live under siege,” he says. “This is the only thing that makes us feel free.” by Katherine Smyrk » To support UNICEF’s work for the children, youth and women of Gaza, go to unicef.org.au.