IDF delegation to Berlin Marathon runs into funding obstacle

German military has told the IDF that they would have to cover their own accomodations, upping the costs.

long distance runner 88 (photo credit: )
long distance runner 88
(photo credit: )
As part of the state's 60th anniversary celebrations, the IDF Ground Forces Command has come up with a plan to send a delegation of 60 officers to participate, for the first time, in the Berlin Marathon. The plan, however, seems to be in jeopardy as Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel has refused to fund the delegation. The 35th Berlin Marathon will take place on September 28; it is expected to draw 40,000 athletes and more than a million spectators. The idea for the IDF to participate in the race came from Col. Avi Moyal, head of the IDF's Combat Fitness Department, based at the Wingate Institute south of Netanya. Due to very positive feedback from within the military, the Ground Forces Command set up a committee to choose the 60 officers to participate in the marathon. "The Berlin Marathon was chosen not just because it is one of the most important in the world but also because of the message Israel would be sending by having IDF officers participate," said an officer involved in the planning. Moyal even asked IDF Chief Education Officer Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermeister to create an educational program to be presented to the officers during their stay in Germany. The Ground Forces Command's plan did not go smoothly; several weeks ago the German military informed the IDF that they would not have room to accommodate the Israeli delegation in a military base near Berlin, as initially planned to lower costs. Harel, officers said, rejected the project due to the increase in costs, even after members of the delegation said they would split the expenses with the IDF. Sources in the Ground Forces Command said this week that they hoped the IDF would change its mind. "This is a worthy cause for several reasons including from an educational perspective," one officer said. "Considering the message involved, it is not much different than the IDF delegations that go several times a year to learn about the Holocaust in Europe." The IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement that the delegation's participation in the marathon was initially approved on the condition that the officers sleep inside a military base to minimize costs. "After checking the issue and finding that no bases in the area could accommodate the delegation since they were at full capacity, it was decided that the IDF delegation would not participate in the marathon this year. Participation will be reconsidered next year," the statement read.