Over 20,000 people from 52 countries participated in this years Jerusalem Winter Marathon. An Ethiopian Israeli named Abraham Kabeto Ketla was pronounced the winner. Luka Kipkemoi Chelimo of Kenya came in second place, while another Kenyan, Vincent Kiplagat Kiptoo, came in third place. However, many other types of people participated, including an American special education teacher, Susan Silkes, who ran for the Hebrew Academy of Special Children, and Kasim Kaz Hafeez, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin who ran for the Lone Soldier Center.

Kasim claimed that running in the Jerusalem Marathon was the most physically difficult thing that he has ever done and he felt that just finishing it was quite an accomplishment for him. Yet, he asserted that it was a very worthwhile experience, for he got to raise money for the Lone Soldier Center. According to Kasim, the Lone Soldier Center not only looks out for soldiers who have made Aliyah without their families, but also for soldiers who were estranged from their families because their parents did not support them serving in the IDF.

Kasim claimed that he could really relate to soldiers who were disowned because their families did not support their decision, for his family also abandoned him after he decided to become an outspoken Muslim Zionist. Upon spending time at the Lone Soldier Center during this particular Israel trip; Kasim claimed that many of the Israeli soldiers working there claimed that he was like one of them, because of his family situation. Thus, Kasim viewed running for the Lone Soldier Center as a really special experience.

When asked how he felt about being in Israel, Kasim responded, “It is great to be in Israel. It is a democracy surrounded by dictatorial rule. It is a country in the Middle East with freedom and democracy. It doesn’t seem like much but it is huge. The Jerusalem Marathon is merely another expression of this wonderful freedom. It is more than just people running. It is about shared values that all western democracies stand for. It is the microcosm of every thing in this one small event, with various people from all over the world running for various things.”

This was Kasim’s third trip in Israel. On his first trip, he came to explore and ultimately question the false teachings that he grew up with as a member of the Muslim community in the United Kingdom. On his second trip, he did a speaking tour with Stand With US, an organization which Kasim is very active in. On this trip as well, Kasim participated in a hasbara video organized by Stand With Us. However, Kasim mainly came for the Jerusalem Marathon, which he described as an amazing experience that he sought to have for a very long period of time. Kasim asserted that he always loves coming to Israel for it is like coming home.

To view a video of the Jerusalem Marathon, see below!

By Rachel Avraham