Home Run

Would the rabbis of the ancient world have given their blessing to the twenty-first century Jerusalem Marathon?

It’s a question I ponder each March, on that designated Friday when traffic in the Holy City comes to a grinding halt. Barricades are set up to block cars and buses, and their place is taken by some 25,000 runners (and chilled-out walkers) who make their way along Jerusalem’s cleared roads. It’s a marathon, but it feels like a festival.

When I wrote my first children’s book a couple of years ago, I asked eleven-year-old Gabi, who ran with her sisters, to describe the day. In her words:

“I think the Jerusalem Marathon is especially exciting because as you run, you pass . . . the places that tell the stories of three thousand years of Jerusalem’s history . . . ancient Biblical sites, the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, which were built when the city was a part of the Ottoman Empire and the nineteenth century train station, which is close to my house.”

(Gabi)

Of course, anyone with an elementary Jewish education knows that our sages disdained the ancient Greek Olympics and its worship of physical prowess.

Gabi at marathon

But consider the historic context. What if those learned scholars of yore could be brought, in spirit, to the starting gate? Would they not see it as the triumph of Jerusalem over Athens on the athletic paths of the Holy City? After centuries of running from pillar to post, we finally have the run of this city, which we have never forgotten to call home. And look who’s running in the Jerusalem Marathon—people of all ages, nations and faiths. And perhaps most compelling is the merry fanfare for children of all abilities. With song and mime, they are given a free run across the last meters toward the finish line. It’s not a close run to the Olympics, but it is a celebration of Jerusalem–body and soul.

Eva L. Weiss

Posted by Eva L. Weiss

Eva L. Weiss is a writer, editor and translator. Eva (also known as Chava) was born in New York City and grew up there. She studied English literature and began her career as a book editor in Manhattan. She made aliya in 1992, and since then, is grateful to be at home in Jerusalem, while preserving strong ties with family and friends on both sides of the world. Eva is an instructor at David Yellin College. She is the author of the children's book, I am Israeli (Mitchell-Lane, 2016), which offers first-person life stories shared by five Israeli children, including her son Yakir.

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