Lift Tel Aviv Marathon ban and promote spirit of courage

There is a greater risk of infection in high-density enclosed areas, such as religious pilgrimage sites, places of learning or in light rail cars, than there is while running outdoors in a marathon.

Runners in the Tel Aviv marathon February 22, 2019 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Runners in the Tel Aviv marathon February 22, 2019
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
I recently read how, per a directive of the Health Ministry, Tel Aviv Marathon organizers have limited participation in this weekend’s race to Israelis only. Now there are talks of canceling next month’s 10th annual Jerusalem Marathon.
While I applaud Israel for doing what it can to keep citizens and visitors safe, the non-Israeli participant ban in this sporting event does not make sense. At the same time, visitors can come into Israel as long as they have not been to high-risk countries impacted by coronavirus within a certain time-frame.
There is a greater risk of infection in high-density enclosed areas, such as religious pilgrimage sites, places of learning or in light rail cars, than there is while running outdoors in a marathon. As Israel is the land of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, there must be a better way to address the very real concerns of the coronavirus. Authorities should thoughtfully mitigate risk without barring certain tourists, seemingly at random.
As an avid runner with a spiritual connection to Israel, I have observed that the marathons help promote international goodwill. As a runner for Run for Zion (runforzion.com) – a charity which builds bridges between Christians and Jews and partners with various Israeli nonprofits to invest in an array of non-profit projects – I found that everyone I talked to about the Jerusalem Marathon had something positive to say about Israel.
Positive vibes toward Israel cannot be taken for granted with the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and antisemitism. Sports provide the international platform to help build those vital bridges of peace and understanding.
The non-Israeli participant ban in the Tel Aviv Marathon, and the potential cancellation of the Jerusalem Marathon, promote a spirit of fear instead of the courage and resilience that Israel is known for. It would make more sense to allow non-Israelis who make it through thorough airport screenings to participate and share how, when a virus tries to triumph, good can and will prevail.
The writer is a risk management professional who has run 10 marathons, including the Jerusalem Marathon 2019. She will return with Run for Zion next month.


Tags marathon