AUSTRALIAN ULTRA-MARATHONER Pat Farmer, center, is joined (from left) by Dror Ben Ami, Danny Hakim, Sharon Davson, and Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma at a reception at the King David Hotel Monday night honoring his symbolic trek across the Middle East..
(photo credit: RONEN TOPELBERG)
I went for a run this past Sunday morning, as I try do several times every week. But this time I felt like seeing a new place, having a more adventurous run, and doing something good at the same time.
I went out with a group of friends to run with Pat Farmer near Eli in the Shomron. We knew that Pat, on his Middle East Peace Run, wanted people to join him. I assumed all people were welcome, and we actually coordinated running some of the route with his team beforehand.
When we saw Pat and his group running, we pulled over to the side of the road and joined him. Pat and his team were most welcoming.
We joined him and ran with him, talking and joking and discussing his honorable goal of using sports to bring people together. But somehow the Palestinian runners who were with him disappeared as soon as we joined.
I understand that our presence triggered a flurry of phone calls and calls to action on their side. The balloon burst after less than two kilometers, when Pat’s team told us that we could not continue running.
“What do you mean, we cannot run?” I asked. “Are we doing something wrong? Are we doing something to upset the Peace Run?” Strange to say, but the answer was yes. The Palestinian youth Olympic team were joining the run, and they had apparently threatened to boycott it until we left the scene.
Our noble efforts seemed indeed to be threatening the spirit of this run! Let’s get this right. This team is a representative of the Palestinian Authority, individuals that play sports against others, people who are different from them, have different opinions, colors, passions and languages.
These youths are the ambassadors of the PA. I would have assumed they would and should welcome other runners, especially on a “Peace Run.” But I guess the PA’s support for the Peace Run was rather political, with pre-conditions and all. No Jews, then we can entertain peace.
So what really upset the cart there on Road 60? We had kippot on our heads – except me, as I was wearing a sun cap with an Israeli flag on it. I am not sure which headgear disturbed them more, but clearly the Palestinian representatives could not stomach a few Jews and/or Zionists on a Peace Run.
We came in the name of decency, and the spirit of reconciliation.
We left abruptly as we didn’t want a confrontation to mar Pat’s run, but I also left with other scars.
I left the scene with significant disappointment and sadness that even regarding such a small thing as a Peace Run, tolerance was not tolerated by our Palestinian cousins.
We have heard a lot recently about the ongoing Israeli complaints against PA incitement. Now I got a firsthand look at it, in all its ugliness.
The Palestinian leaders who habitually drop and stamp on every olive branch passed to them considered it necessary to tell their young athletes not to tolerate the presence of Jewish and/or Zionist athletes.
I am sorry these athletes didn’t have the guts to tell their leaders that this is not where they want to be led. I hope that the Palestinian youth will find within themselves the spirit to find against such racism, such shallowness, such moral bankruptcy. My hope and prayer is that the Palestinian youth, if not the elders, will begin to stand up for decency, reconciliation, humanity, and for supporting bridge building actions with their Jewish cousins. At that time I am sure we will all feel a new hope for peace in the Middle East, and I will be the first to volunteer for a more sincere Run for Peace.
The author is a sports activist and intellectual property architect.