Nearly a dozen Evangelical Christian runners will arrive in the country in the coming days to take part in the Jerusalem Marathon.
“If you are a Christian and a runner, Jerusalem is the most powerful and impressive place to run,” said Jonathan Feldstein, president of a new nonprofit organization, Genesis 123. “Most Christians look at the Jewish return to and reestablishment of Israel as fulfillment of a biblical promise.”
Feldstein said Genesis 123 plays off the verse Genesis 12:3, which states that God will bless those who bless Israel.
The organization’s first project is Run for Zion.
Originally, Feldstein said he hoped to recruit 500 runners and walkers to take part in the March 15 marathon. However, this year he recruited only 10 runners.
“It’s a beta year,” Feldstein told The Jerusalem Post. But he was proud of the diversity of his runners, who will be traveling from Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arizona and Alabama.
For example, Pastor Ray Hardee, senior pastor of the Point Church in Belmont, North Carolina, is a preacher, teacher and now a runner, too. Feldstein said the pastor has supported Israel most of his life. Hardee’s stepfather led more than 50 trips to Israel. For Hardee, Run for Zion is “fulfilling a dream.”
Another participant is Rev. Linda V. Chandler, an ordained pastor at Austin Brethren Church in Texas. She studied at Yad Vashem in 2014 and teaches an eight-week course for other Christians to combat antisemtisim and replacement theology, a Christian doctrine that asserts that a new covenant through Jesus Christ supersedes the old covenant, which was made exclusively with the Jewish people.
Feldstein said Run for Zion is the first formal program to make a powerful Christian experience out of running the Jerusalem Marathon.
“Run for Zion is providing a special experience for Christians,” Feldstein told The Post. “Interest has been generated all over the world. In just the last quarter of 2018, we attracted nearly 25,000 Facebook followers and tens of thousands of emails, reflecting that we have found a niche.”
Feldstein was endorsed by former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and he is working in conjunction with the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority. He said he plans to approach Mayor Moshe Lion about a partnership after this year’s event.
“Visiting Israel in the 70th year of statehood since Israel was reborn and the Jewish people restored to their land” is significant, Feldstein explained, especially for Christians who will walk on the “cobblestone ancient roads of the Old City where Jesus walked.”
He noted that Jerusalem (Zion) is mentioned more than 600 times in scripture and that “when you know that is where Jesus and the apostles and the prophets and the kings walked, your faith comes alive in new dimensions.”
His tagline is, “Bless Israel with every step.”
“When we think about marketing Israel, we often look toward the 5.5 million or 6 million American Jews,” Feldstein said. “I made the realization that there are between 70 million and 100 million other people in the U.S. who are Christian, who love Israel, and we are missing an opportunity to communicate with them and build lasting and important relationships for everyone involved.”
He continued, “The Jerusalem Marathon offers a full pasta dinner to anyone running the full marathon, and we are offering the same thing to our Christian runners. While eating carbs will give you energy, the real charge will come from waking up and embarking on the most spiritual run they have ever taken."