Melanie Lidman, Nir Barkat running 150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Twelve-thousand runners will descend on Jerusalem next Friday for the Second
Annual Jerusalem International Marathon, an integral part of Mayor Nir Barkat’s
vision for creating cultural and sports events to bring the city to the
“This marathon flows through the beautiful sites in
the city. It is a breathtaking and challenging marathon compared to other, flat
marathons,” Barkat said on Tuesday in a jab at the marathon in Tel Aviv. “We’re
making Jerusalem more exciting, open and inviting for the 3.5 billion religious
people around the world who are eager to see Jerusalem,” he continued. “The
marathon targets marathon runners around the world who seek sites that they’ve
not yet been to, to come and enjoy both the sporting event and a cultural and
The number of runners from abroad has increased by 50
percent since last year, for a total of 1,493 from 50 different
There are also 2,000 more runners participating than last
year, when 10,000 people ran the marathon, half-marathon, 10k and 4.2k fun
Barkat touted the economic impact of the marathon in an attempt to
temper the frustration of Jerusalem residents over the shutdown of major city
roads on marathon day. The event has generated approximately 5,000 hotel stays,
and each international runner is expected to pump between $1,500 and $2,000 into
the local economy through restaurants, shopping and hotels, according to
estimates from the Jerusalem Development Authority.
The route, too, has
changed since last year, with the climb up Mount Scopus shifted to the beginning
of the race and the difficult hills of Rehavia to the end of the race. Barkat
added that the route would be marked more clearly this year, especially at the
end, to avoid a mix-up like last year’s, in which the leaders got lost and ended
up in the wrong place.
Two weeks ago, the mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh
Muhammad Hussein, urged the international community to boycott the marathon
because it passes through east Jerusalem.
“The marathon is one more
attempt by Israeli occupation to erase the Arab identity of Jerusalem,” Hussein
said in a statement, according to the news website Al-Arabiya.
passes next to the Arab neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Issawiya as it
circles the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus and threads through the Old
City’s Jewish and Armenian Quarters.
Barkat dismissed the mufti’s
“I am the mayor of all of Jerusalem, and the marathon runs in
all of the city, period,” he said.
Many of the roads in downtown
Jerusalem, as well as Highway 1 near the university and parts of Hebron Road,
will be closed or partially closed on marathon day. Schools along the route will
also be closed for the day.
The mayor encouraged all residents to come
and cheer the runners and take part in the day’s festivities, and expressed hope
that there would be more spectators than last year, when runners went kilometers
at a time without seeing a single spectator.
“The route is challenging;
that’s why the slogan is ‘Breathtaking,’” said Barkat. “But people just love
running the streets of Jerusalem. People go to the flat cities of the world for
their best [running] time. That’s not Jerusalem. You come to Jerusalem for the