On Friday morning, Raz Ruterman, 20, will lead a group of determined runners on the 800-meter accessible route in the annual Jerusalem Marathon to raise funds and awareness for the NGO LOTEM – Making Nature Accessible.
“There is not a lot of awareness of accessible nature trails in Israel and I hope to run with everyone for this important cause,” Ruterman said on Thursday.
He grew up near Kibbutz Ramot Menashe in the North, where he loved to hike as a child. “Since I can remember I’ve been hiking the trails next to my house, it’s a part of me,” he said.
In May 2002, when he was eight years old, Ruterman was partially paralyzed in a car accident and was no longer able to walk the trails he loved. Following two years of intensive rehabilitation in the hospital, he was introduced to LOTEM, and since then the nonprofit has become a big part of his life.
Eleven years after his accident, Ruterman has decided to complete his national service with LOTEM in an effort to contribute and to give back to the organization that enabled him to return to the trails.
Ruterman has been serving as a tour guide for seven months as part of his service.
Among his responsibilities is taking visitors with a range of physical challenges to the inclusive trail at Nahal Hashofet in the Megiddo region – one of the first accessible trails in Israel.
He also writes a monthly blog where he wheels accessible trails throughout the country and writes about his experience and uploads photos from his hikes to the Instagram online service.
“From my experience it is crucial to allow people with disabilities to connect to nature and have accessible trails – in nature nothing is out of the ordinary and there are no imperfections,” he said.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund, LOTEM, the Mayerson Foundation and other partners funded the construction of the inclusive trail at Nahal Hashofet shortly after his injury.
Ruterman will wheel the marathon with a team of seven runners from LOTEM as part of a wider JNF delegation of runners from various organizations.
Donations on behalf of Ruterman and the LOTEM team can be made at http://support.jnf.org/goto/raz.