High times in Jerusalem: How free-running is uniting Arab and Israeli teenagers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

If freedom is a state of mind, so is parkour. The physical discipline, also known as free running, requires participants to move at speed through their environment, jumping roofs, flipping over walls, and swinging round any obstacle in their path.

Parkour is big in Jerusalem. Perhaps it's no wonder that a sport dedicated to overcoming physical barriers should take off in a city where division is an enduring source of conflict.

Photographer Matanya Tausig has been capturing the stunning jumps and stunts pulled by groups of young men, across the roofs, walls and streets of the city. And just as they throw themselves over seemingly insurmountable structures, these teenagers are also overcoming political divisions through their shared enthusiasm for parkour.

Practising and showing off is a social activity, and there are both Arab and Israeli parkour groups in different parts of the city. But these separate segments of society have been drawn together through their love of athletic stunts.

"There is one group that is Jewish, from the south of the city, and with them is an Arab, Yazan, who lives in a village in south Jerusalem," explains Tausig. "They started practising together – and so you start getting mixed groups. The whole friendship is based on the sport. Everybody involved is friends on Facebook." The internet has been crucial in spreading both knowledge of the sport and putting Jerusalem's parkour enthusiasts in touch with each other. "It is mostly spreading through Facebook – friends organise specific days when everybody goes to the same city to do parkour together," says Tausig.

Many of the youngsters were inspired by videos on YouTube, although there are differences in the way the two groups have developed their sport. While the Jewish boys applied skills they'd gained from gymnastics classes, the Arabs developed their technique using capoeira moves.

Eighteen-year-old Yazan Aliyan was entirely self-taught, using online movies, though he now both runs with the Jewish boys and attends the capoeira lessons too. According to Tausig, he's the the "craziest" of the lot, jumping roofs the rest wouldn't dare to.

Tausig's photographic project, entitled On the Roofs of Jerusalem, came about by chance. He had previously seen parkour only online and on TV. But one day, he spied some kids (they're usually between the ages of 12 and 20) climbing a roof in the Qatamon neighbourhood, got chatting to them and took a few pictures. From November last year he began shooting them seriously during their free-running sessions.

"For the past three years I've been doing lots of news photos, about the politics and conflict – so it was really refreshing for me to see something else," he explains.

And are they free to run wherever they please? "The whole city is an open country to them, [but] on the other hand, it's Jerusalem, so some places are more sensitive." But to the young boys (so far not yet joined by any girls), the sport and their integration in its pursuit, is not a political act. Says Tausig: "Most of them are not too politically aware – this is their childhood, they're just having fun. It's mostly about having a good time."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform