How Fit Can Palestinians Get?
Working out and being healthy have become very trendy in some areas in the West Bank, especially in Ramallah. I see people jogging and cycling all over town. I always see gym parking lots full, and I keep hearing of new “healthy” restaurants opening up!
Last month, a friend and I signed up for a women’s Pilates class. We are both newly married, and our husbands were excited that we were going to try something new on our own.
Although it is a small class of 15-20 women, we are from a variety of ages/statuses, and we are a mixed group of Muslims and Christians:
Single ladies (40%)
Recently married ladies (5%)
Young new-mothers (10%)
Middle aged women/mothers (35%)
Older women/grandmothers (10%)
Why are these classes so popular among Palestinian women? According to those in my class, it goes something like this:
To improve their “marriage life” (50%) - as a woman so bluntly mentioned in our class the other day!!
To lose weight/be skinnier (40%)
To stay fit and healthy (10%)
Beyond our Pilates class, there are other classes that my gym offers for women, such as Zumba, and pregnancy fitness.
Palestinian men also frequent the gym. Their reasons tend be different from those of the women.
There’s nothing better to do (30%)
They want to look bigger and buffer (35%)
To look cool in front of their peers (25%)
To be fit and healthy (10%)
While men and women go to the gym, we go at different times. A number of gyms in the West Bank have daily schedules that look like this:
Women’s hours (8:00am-12:00pm, 3:00pm-7:00pm)
Men’s hours (6:00am-8:00am, 7:00pm- 8:00pm)
Family hours (8:00pm-10:00pm)
The average monthly membership fees tend to differ based on gender. So they look something like this:
Women: NIS 150-300
Men: NIS 300-500
The minimum wage in Palestine is only NIS 1,450, so the kind of people who can and do join gyms and fitness classes tend to be better off. However, the reason the prices are high is because there is no competition. There are only a few fitness centers, so the owners can be greedy with their pricing.
I love that there has been an increasing awareness among West Bankers on the issue of health and fitness. The greatest indicator of this is the recently founded Annual Palestinian Marathon which started in 2013, and is happening this year on March 27. One of the objectives idea of the marathon is to shed light on the Israeli occupation in the West Bank which has led to a complete restriction of movement for Palestinians, as seen in the separation wall and the checkpoints.
The official Palestinian marathon website expresses it this way:“The Palestinians’ right to movement is controlled by their ID, permits, which city they live in, or who they are married to. Ever been through Qalandia? Then you know why we do this! We cannot even find the 42,195 KMs needed for a marathon.This is why we do it."
Come to Palestine. Visit one of our gyms, or join us in our annual marathon! I would love to see you there.