: By Rabbi Tuly Weisz

I felt like I was praying with my legs racing through the streets of the holy city during the Jerusalem Marathon this past Friday. With Biblical verses running through my head, I was overjoyed to see “the streets of the city filled” (Zechariah 8:5) with 15,000 runners from all over the world. And despite an unusual mid-March hailstorm, the rain soaked runners were all smiling from ear to ear as they ascended the steep inclines of “the city surrounded by hills” (Psalms 125:2).

Characteristic of the famously resilient Israeli spirit, amongst the scores of runners was a 77 year old Holocaust survivor, a terror victim and a blind attorney from Michigan. In fact, the day before the 2nd annual marathon, the City of Peace was once again disrupted by the brutal stabbing of a female soldier by a Palestinian terrorist. Nevertheless, all were inspired by Mayor Nir Barkat who stated from the hospital that, “I know the public understands that the response to terror is to be on the starting line tomorrow.”

Having just moved to Israel this year, exploring Jerusalem is still a novel thrill for me. It is therefore difficult to describe what it was like to experience running through the Old City alleyways shoulder to shoulder with so many others who love the city as much as I do. Sprinting past Jerusalem’s significant landmarks brought new meaning to the Talmud’s assertion that every step a person takes in the Land of Israel is a holy act.

Not everyone, however, was happy with the marathon. Hamas staged protests in Gaza burning Adidas clothing to protest the sponsor’s support for the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.” I never thought that I would say it, but I must agree with Hamas. The Jerusalem marathon did feel like a massive Judaization of Jerusalem, and I couldn’t be more proud to have participated.

It’s always invigorating when Jerusalem hosts an international event such as a world class marathon. However, when Zechariah describes how “many people and mighty nations will come” to Jerusalem, we must not forget that they are not merely coming to visit her landmarks or run through her streets, but to “seek out the Lord, Master of Legions, in Jerusalem, and to supplicate before God” (8:22). I believe this is what sets apart the Jerusalem Marathon from any other. There are many great courses through many beautiful cities all over the world, but those who ran this past Friday will tell you that there was a different feeling here. It’s the recognition that the Jewish people have returned to Zion and that only in the Jerusalem Marathon do your legs pray.

United with Israel’s Rabbi Tuly Weisz is also the director of Teach for Israel, an organization empowering local rabbis to be more effective Israel advocates by teaching about the biblical significance of the Land of Israel. He can be reached at rabbituly@unitedwithisrael.org.

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