Saturday, April 1, 2023

Cycling in Palestine



   Initially, cycling in Palestine began around 1920s, it was practiced by club members and Scout teams. Cycling trips and races have been reported by Palestinian newspapers especially Filastin and Palestine Bulletin since 1920s. The distances traveled often exceeded 100 kilometers. As a result of the British Mandate in Palestine, many sports were introduced, especially cycling, which the British claim as their own invention.


In April 1931, the Zionist-oriented Palestine Bulletin newspaper reported that the [Jewish] cyclists will leave Jerusalem for Europe. They are all members of Hapoel and will participate in the International Workers' Olympiad that will be held in mid-June. They will go first to Agula, then to Haifa, and from there they will travel by steamer to Marseilles. And then on bikes through France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. They will be present at the Zionist Congress in Switzerland, and there they will also participate in the Olympics. The leader of the cycling athletes told the Bulletin that the team will be absent for about four months, and that it is the first Palestinian team to travel with bicycles across Europe.[1]


  During the British mandate, cycling was popularized by the Jewish-Zionist sports organizations Maccabi and Hapoel. In 1921, the Maccabi World Union was formed as an Umbrella organization for all Jewish sports associations. A cycling competition was held at the first Maccabiah Games on March 28, 1932 in Tel Aviv. [2]


  Established in 1926 as a union of the Histadrut, and represented the workers class, Hapoel organized its first cycling division in 1930, and held the first road bike race in 1932 on the streets of Tel Aviv. Also at this time, Hapoel developed ties with Jewish communities in Europe, with various delegations of Jewish cyclists and motorcyclists coming to participate in festive sports events.[3]

In an interview with Wingate Institute researchers, Arie Doron, who for four decades headed Hapoel’s Cycling Division, recalled a joint Maccabi-Hapoel competition against the British Police in Jerusalem in 1940.[4] In 1921, Tel Aviv resident Menachem Goldberg began importing Phillips Cycles and Ariel Cycles from Britain to Palestine. [5]

   Filastin reported on January 28, 1936 a cycling committee comprised of Dr. Haqqi Mazin, Youssef Al-Sayegh and Mustafa Al-Taher met with Dr. Daoud Al-Huseini, Secretary of the Palestine Sports Federation (founded in 1931). It was reported that decisions had been made about running a cycling race that would take place between Jaffa, Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, within three days. Mr. Edmon Rock donated 25 pounds to be allocated for three prizes.  There is no information as to whether this race took place as a result of the 1936-39 Great Revolt.


   Following the re-formation of the Palestinian Sports Federation in September 1944, cycling became institutionalized. Associated with the Palestinian Sports Federation, the General Committee for Athletics was formed in 1946. It included cycling. Levon Kishishian, Ibrahim Nusseibeh, Hussein Hosni, and George Tannous were members of this committee.


This sport had become part of the athletic tradition of the time. For example,  the Youth Sports Institute of Ramla that organized, in February 1945, a bicycle race started in Ramla and ended in Aqer (a village located south of the city of Ramla) back and forth, which was the first race of this kind in this city.

Filastin reported in July 1945 a team of cyclists from the Arab Youth Club in Beersheba visited Gaza and stayed at the summer residence of Gaza Sports Club. In the evening they returned by bicycles to Beersheba, and the distance they traveled was estimated at 100 kilometers.   

In June 1946, members of the sports team of the Palestinian Arab Workers Association in Haifa traveled to Beirut from Acre on bicycles, and they covered this distance in eight hours. [6]

A bicycle race was held in July 1946 to determine the winner of the Palestine Championship where nineteen cyclists took part. Most of the winners were from Ramla. At 9:15 in the morning, the race began in front of Orthodox Club in Jerusalem, followed by Ramallah, Latroun, and Jaffa. Having traveled 85 kilometers, Mr. Mustafa Ahmad from the Ramla Youth Sports Institute was the first to arrive at 12:24 in the afternoon. The time was a Middle East record, according to Mr. Levon Kashishian secretary of the Federation’s Athletic Committee. Participants arrived in the following order:  Peter Isiavic (Orthodox Club- Jerusalem), Ibrahim Dabush (Youth Sports Institute in Ramla), Ahmad Yaqoub (Islamic Ramla) and Jawdat Sari (Islamic Ramla). The rest were transported in a freight car after getting tired during the journey. The medals were distributed to the top five by Mr. Philip and Mr. Rourian. [7]


On October 27, 1946, this Committee organized a race of its kind in Palestine, which involved the hill of al-Qastal (a village near Jerusalem). A distance of 1400 meters was covered. All cyclists affiliated with the Federation were eligible to participate in this race. A silver cup was awarded to the first winner, and medals to the other five. The race was filmed. Apart from Palestinian cyclists, some cyclists from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Cyprus, and British Police and Army members residing in the Middle East took part. About thirty cyclists took part. First place was awarded to Thomas, the British, followed by Muhammad Mustafa, nicknamed Al-Louri [from Egypt] and Mustafa Ahmed a Palestinian from the Ramleh Youth Sports Institute. [8]

In November 4, 1946, Mustafa Ahmed, from the Youth Sports Institute in Ramla took part in a cycling race in Alexandria. The race was held over a distance of 20 km. Filastin reported that this is undoubtedly clear evidence of the development of this type of sport at that time in Palestine and an indication of the activity and efforts of the Athletics Committee in pushing sports forward so that our athletes stand out on the Arab level. [9]  Mustafa Ahmed, the champion of Palestine ranked third in this race. The first was the champion of Egypt, Mr. Muhammad Mustafa Al-Luri.  [10]

There is no information about when the current Palestine Cycling Federation was founded, but it is most likely was founded in the 1970s. In 1983, it was affiliated with the Arab Cycling Federation. In November 1920, it joined the International Cycling Union.


[1] Palestine Bulletin 24 April 1931.

[6] Filastin 16 June 1946

[7] Filastin 24 July 1946.

[8] Filastin 4 November 1946.

[9] Filastin 20 November 1946.

[10] Al-Muntada 15 November 1946.

No comments:

Post a Comment