Jerusalem, Tel Aviv spar over marathon dates

Teachers also angry students along race route will miss school.

Billboard for the Jerusalem Marathon 390 (photo credit: Neri Zilber)
Billboard for the Jerusalem Marathon 390
(photo credit: Neri Zilber)
The Jerusalem Marathon is six weeks away, but Mayor Nir Barkat is already facing a number of disgruntled parties frustrated with the race.
Primary among them is the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, whose annual Gillette Marathon will take place on the same date as the Jerusalem Marathon in 2013. They were already frustrated last year, when Jerusalem also decided to hold their annual marathon in March. Last year and this year, the Tel Aviv marathon fell two weeks after the Jerusalem event. Both races include half marathons and 10-km. runs.
But next year, both races will take place on March 15, drawing the ire of Tel Aviv, who claims they reserved the date first.
Many runners who run in both events are disappointed the two events will take place simultaneously. A Tel Aviv Municipality spokesman said the city chose the dates in 2010 for the next five marathons, and published them with the sport’s governing body, AIMS (the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races).
Jerusalem claims they registered their marathon date for 2013 before Tel Aviv.
“Sources in the municipality point out that it’s a shame that the Tel Aviv Municipality is hurting the running community just because they want to fight the Jerusalem marathon,” a municipality spokesman said.
“The capital of Israel offers runners the most challenging and interesting marathon and it’s unfortunate that the Tel Aviv Municipality is acting with ego and unprofessional motives, which is damaging both marathons.”
The Tel Aviv spokesman refused to elaborate on whether or not they believed the proximity of the two races was harming the efforts of both cities.
Jerusalem responded to the tiff by buying an enormous, building-sized billboard directly across from the Tel Aviv municipality on Ibn Gvirol Street, advertising the Jerusalem marathon, whose theme is “Breathtaking.”
Teachers and parents in Jerusalem are also aggravated by the marathon, since it means canceled school for thousands of students whose schools are on the path of the race and will not be able to get to class. Last year, class was canceled for these students and they did not make up the lost hours.
This year, the Jerusalem Teacher’s Union appealed to the municipality to move the marathon to the intermediate days of the Passover holiday, but the municipality refused.
The Teacher’s Union agreed to cancel school on marathon day, but will lengthen the school day by one hour on Fridays for a month in the affected schools to make up for the lost day.
“It’s a nice cultural thing, very sport-like, but what do they want? That the teachers also run the marathon?” asked Mordechai Samet, the director of the Jerusalem Teacher’s Union. He hoped that in future years, the municipality will move the marathon to a non- school day. Last year, some students volunteered on race day to direct runners and hand out water.
More than 11,000 people took part in the 10k, half marathon and marathon in Jerusalem last year, compared to 15,000 in Tel Aviv.
Residents of the tent encampment in Sacher Park are also angry about the marathon, because they accuse the mayor of trying to evict them from their shacks and tents in order to “clean out” the park before the race, which starts and ends there.
The mayor offered the families six months of temporary rent assistance in exchange for their promise not to return to Sacher Park, which the 22 families refused. On January 26, the residents won a temporary injunction against the eviction order, allowing them to stay in their tents past the date of the marathon.
But in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post last year, Barkat stressed the importance of the marathon for presenting Jerusalem to the world as a modern, cultural and vibrant city.
“For me, it’s really putting Jerusalem on a pedestal and opening it up and showing it to people,” he said during a training run last year.
“When you do a marathon in a city... the city enters into your soul. You have tens of thousands of people running and you have hundreds of thousands of people cheering. With the cheering and the running together, you get the best out of the city you’re in.”