I ran the Tel Aviv Half-Marathon today, Friday morning, early. The streets had been closed and runners walked down the middle of Herbert Samuel Street, mixing with the revelers returning from Thursday night parties, as rollerbladers and recumbent bikers sped by. I had to wonder if it wasn''t Yom Kipur.

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It was -- and still is -- a perfect day. Clear light, clouds risen on the edges of the city, the sea calm. A human sea of orange race shirts swelled at the start line, undulating with excitement as the race announcer ticked off the minutes to the zinuk. And then we were off -- not dashing, but slowly, the orange body surging forward and spilling over itself, slowly breaking into individual people.

 

Up Allenby, down Rothschild towards the new HaBimah theater. I catch sight of my friend doing a morning kickboxing workout in the middle of the great Boulevard, shout her name and cheer her on. Around me, runners are laughing and talking.

 

We dash against HaBimah and turn back on our course up Rothschild and then spill out onto the sea at Allenby. We dip below the bridge on HaYarkon, and all the runners shout ("Yaala!"), their voices echo under the concrete, and a half-a-hundred GPS watches beep about their lost satellite signals.

 

The race winds on -- bands playing on the sides, young girls moving in choreographed step cheer us, runners weaving, the Ethiopians, some running under a kippah, are already doubling back, finishing up their marathon in just a bit more than the time it will take me to do my half. Park HaYarkon appears and recedes, green with its olive river, and then we turn down Ibn Gavirol, the boulevard of the Jewish philosopher-poet, towards Rabin Square and onto Frishman.

 

It was a perfect day, an amazing race. The largest marathon in Israel''s history. And it was now -- with all the nuclear hysteria, all the accusations, all the worries and concerns, the unfairness and complaints -- all of that ceased to be. It was a good day to be an Israeli, or even just to be in Israel.

 

 

Ashley Rindsberg is the author of Tel Aviv Stories.


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