Many key thoroughfares in the capital were blocked off by police Friday as the terror-struck city prepared for a decidedly more optimistic spectacle: the sixth annual international Jerusalem Marathon.
The marathon was set to run from 7 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., during which an estimated 25,000 runners from across the country, as well as from 61 other countries, were competing.
Thousands of cops were being deployed to secure the event, alongside hundreds of volunteers and organizers.
This year’s marathon includes seven distinct tracks. Besides the 42-kilometer (26-mile) full marathon, there is a 21-kilometer half-marathon, as well as races of 10 and 5 kilometers, a “families’ race” of 1.7 kilometers (about a mile) and a special-needs race of 800 meters.
According to the marathon’s website, “the various tracks pass by fascinating historical sites that illuminate 3,000 years of the history of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.”
As part of the event, stages have been set up at various points along the different tracks where bands will perform for the crowds.
The event is a welcome distraction from recent months of tension and violence, including a wave of Palestinian terror attacks concentrated in the capital. But the marathon is not without its costs, with the most immediate and noticeable, at least for Jerusalemites, being the havoc it is expected to cause to traffic in Israel’s largest city.
Among the major roads that are closed for the event Friday morning: Derech Hevron near the Jerusalem Cinematheque and Old City walls; Ben Tzvi Boulevard west of the city center; Ruppin Road leading to the Knesset, Prime Minister’s Office and Supreme Court; Road 1 (the intra-city road, not the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway of the same name) from the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in the city’s north all the way south to the Old City, among others.
Authorities have warned that anyone who attempts to drive across the city between 5:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday should expect very severe traffic delays.
The city’s light rail and special municipal shuttles will be operating to help ferry crowds to and from Friday’s events.
The Israel Hayom daily reported Friday on a group of 25 participants in the marathon who are planning to run a combined 350 kilometers (217 miles) today to raise some NIS 500,000 for the opening of a battered-women’s shelter uniquely suited to the needs of Orthodox women. Only two such shelters currently operate in Israel. Both are full to capacity, the newspaper explains.