How a parkour group in Gaza turns war ruins into sporting arenas

Spider Parkour’s love for their sport defies Israel’s bombs as they find ways to showcase their skills during the war.

In Rafah, a group of children let out loud cheers as two young men somersault their way down a mound of mud, all the way into a settlement of tents accommodating people fleeing Israel’s war on Gaza.

Their fluid movements make passers-by stop to admire the skills of the Spiders Parkour group.

Their homes have been destroyed during Israel’s three-month bombardment. Five of their team members have been killed, but these young survivors of war are undaunted.

They find resilience through parkour by turning neighbourhoods destroyed by Israeli bombing into arenas for their favourite sport.

“We have been practising this sport for many years. We train in public places on even ground and on sand dunes,” Najem Ammar, one member tells Al Jazeera.

When the war broke out, Ammar and his friends switched to training on top of the ruins of bombarded neighbourhoods.

“It is a message to the world that our resolve to live is stronger than ever and to show to the world the extent of destruction caused by Israeli bombs,” he says.

Finding a way through destruction

Parkour is a sport in which participants move from one point to another using the obstacles in their path to increase their efficiency, according to the World Free Running and Parkour Federation. It derives its name from the French word “parcours”, which means “the way through”.

The undaunted athletes from Rafah jump, climb, run, vault and run through the destruction caused by Israel’s bombardment.

Parkour became popular in Gaza in the past few decades and acquired a special symbolism as young athletes turned destruction into obstacle courses for their sport.

Spider Parkour, founded in 2011, are popular among young people in the besieged strip. They use YouTube tutorials as their main guides, developing and polishing their parkour skills, which members say meet international standards.

Due to the Israeli siege on Gaza, the group’s members have never had a chance to showcase their skills internationally.

Since the war, they have turned the rubble of houses destroyed by bombs into their free running arenas.

Members walk through narrow streets in war-hit neighbourhoods, and upon encountering a setting that could provide an opportunity to practice their skills, they make a dash for it.

Walls with gaping holes left behind by missiles make for an obstacle through which they can jump and land on the other side.

“It’s a way of telling the world that nothing can stop us or force us to give up on our dream, our sport and our identity,” Mohammed Fawzy says while sitting on top of a pile of rubble.

“It [parkour] also helps us release negative energy and works as a distraction from the bad things happening around us,” he adds.

Spider Parkour hope that one day they will be able to travel and represent Palestine in international competitions.

They say that for them, this dream is inseparable from one of freedom from occupation of Palestine.

Source: Al Jazeera