Some 80 Israeli and Palestinian runners took part in an alternative night run in Jerusalem on Thursday in a demonstration of solidarity following a year of inter-racial tensions in the Holy City.
Entitled “Jerusalemites running together” the five-kilometer (three-mile) route began near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo and followed a newly-built cycle path that traces part of the Green Line between the western side of the city and the annexed eastern half.
The event was organized by a local chapter of Runners Without Borders which has recently set up running groups involving youngsters from both sides of the city in a bid to strengthen ties between the two communities.
Thursday’s event took place a week before the Jerusalem Night Run, an event organized by the municipality which attracts thousands of runners but falls this year on the first night of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, effectively ruling out the participation of those observing the holiday.
Israel Haas, who heads Runners Without Borders, said he was disappointed that the city council chose the first day of Ramadan to hold the Night Run but said Thursday’s event had offered an alternative, allowing Jewish and Arab runners to race together.
He said the aim was to build bridges between people in the city after a year marked by violence and inter-racial tensions which began last summer as Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in Gaza.
The race was hailed by Zahava Gal-On, head of the left-wing Meretz party.
“Runners Without Borders is holding an alternative night race in Jerusalem this evening in protest over the disgraceful decision of the city council to hold its own official night race on the first evening of the fasting month of Ramadan, thereby excluding the many Muslims who live in the city,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“Runners Without Borders has started running groups of Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, proving that even in this difficult and conflicted city you can do things together.”
Israel captured the Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, later annexed it, and often refers to the entire city as its “united, undivided” capital. The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as capital of their future state.