The finish line was built, the route was set, and on Thursday night over 1,000 people were shoveling pasta into their mouths at the Jerusalem International Convention Center in an attempt to carbo-load before the first international Jerusalem Marathon.

With live music and dozens of athletic companies showcasing their wares, the energy was high, and the scene was just as Mayor Nir Barkat had imagined it during the long months of his promoting the event.

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Ten thousand people are set to run the marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 4.2-km. fun run on Friday.

But just across the street was a sobering reminder of reality: the site of the first bus bombing in Jerusalem in seven years, which took place on Wednesday afternoon. Bezeq had already replaced the public phone booth under which the bomb was placed, and there were no visible signs of the attack.

Different groups stood at the site during the day. Around noon, a dozen activists from across the country, representing the socialist youth movement Hamahanot Ha’olim, held a peace vigil.

“People are coming by and yelling, ‘Revenge!’ and ‘Death to Arabs!’” said vigil organizer Inbal Faran-Perach.

“My greatest fear since yesterday is that there will be lots of price tag attacks, violence and beatings, and we don’t want it to spin into hatred and violence,” she said. “We say, let’s protect the peaceful way. We need to defend our borders, but this should not stop us from being in an official conversation about peace.”

Later in the afternoon, 20 national-religious youths from the movement Ra’ananim sang “Am Yisrael Hai” (The Nation of Israel Lives) under a banner reading “Jerusalem is Strong.” At 5:30 p.m., British Consul-General Sir Vincent Fean and British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould laid wreaths at the site of the bombing. A British national, Mary Jane Gardner, was killed in the attack that left 39 wounded.

Across the street, runners from around the world streamed into the convention center to pick up their race packets and attend the traditional pasta dinner. Diesenhaus, the company organizing the race, said it had received dozens of inquiries as to whether the event would go ahead as scheduled, but no one had pulled out of the race for security concerns.

More than 2,000 police officers will be securing the event, including special patrol units, undercover units, and Border Police. There will be sniffer dogs used, and an overhead helicopter.

“We’re securing the event from the early hours of the morning until Shabbat comes in, [protecting] both those that are taking part as well as the bystanders,” said national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

He stressed the “huge police presence” and encouraged the public to call the police about any suspicious packages.

“If we get 100 calls and there is only one package that’s actually suspicious, that’s okay. We are capable of handling hundreds of calls, and we deal with every call,” said Rosenfeld. He added that the emergency line 100 would have extra staff on hand during the marathon hours.

The attack didn’t seem to be deterring any of the international runners.

“It made me even more determined to run,” said three-time marathoner Jack Broadley, originally from Scotland, who is running to raise money for the Bethlehem children’s orphanage House of Hope.

“Running’s all about hope, and it’s important that runners unite and don’t let this get in the way,” he said.

Marathon junkies Rafi (22 or 24 marathons) and Shelly (15 marathons) Shrem said they had considered the security risks before signing up.

“I had misgivings about coming to Jerusalem because of the security,” said Shelly Shrem, who lives in New York with Rafi, her Israeli-born husband.


But she said that marathon runners were already a little crazy and quite dedicated, and she doubted that anyone already here would pull out of the race after coming so far.

Shrem added that she and her husband had run the New York City Marathon in 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks.

“We ran after 9/11, and we’ll run after this,” she said.

“You can’t compare between the two, but you also can’t be afraid,” added Rafi Shrem.

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