Jerusalem marathon 2017: Bridges built in a divided city

Competitors take part in Jerusalem's 7th marathon, on March 17, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX        (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Divided city, but united runners in Jerusalem
01:19 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Race brings Jews, Arabs together

An estimated 30,000 people took part

Running group battles division in society

Jerusalem CNN  — 

The Jerusalem Marathon winds its way through one of the most historic – and contentious – cities on earth.

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all have holy sites within its hallowed walls. Enmity between Israelis and Palestinians is too often the norm, not the exception.

Sometimes the tension is palpable.

One group of runners aims to shift that paradigm, using a simple sport to build bridges between people.

“One of the major problems of Jerusalem is the lack of knowledge between both of the sides,” says Israel Haas, who competed in the 10 km portion of the Jerusalem Marathon, “and lack of knowledge will escalate into fear and bad opinions about each other.”

Haas started Runners Without Borders in November 2014 with his co-founder, Shoshana Ben-David. It was an unlikely time to form a group dedicated to coexistence and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. The war in Gaza had ended not six months earlier, and the distrust between the sides had not yet faded.

Still, Haas and Ben-David pressed on.

“In contrast to many other sports, it’s not one team against another team. You’re doing it together. You’re running on one track with the same people and you’re running in the same direction,” Haas says.