It’s Not a State Emergency, It’s the Jerusalem Marathon

It's a bird, it's a plane,'s a marathon....

In Israel, there are usually two times when traffic comes to a standstill and the roads are eerily quiet. One is Yom Kippur (or Day of Atonement) the Jewish holiday that brings an end to the “Days of Awe” at the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  Yom Kippur is a serious holiday, with most observant Jews spending the day in synagogue, fasting and praying that God will hear their prayers of atonement and inscribe them in the Book of Life for the coming year. Everything shuts down in W. Jerusalem, not a shop is open, nor a car to be found on the street. It’s quite something to experience; the only point of comparison that comes to mind is the quiet that descends upon American cities on Christmas day when pretty much everything, except some ethnic restaurants and movie theatres, closes. Of course it’s not quite the right comparison because Yom Kippur is a solemn time for reflection, and Christmas is a grand celebration (consumer and otherwise), but it’s the best I can muster.  Yet another difference, while observant Jews fast and pray, secular Jews bike in the streets.


 The other time is on Yom Hazikaron, or the Day of Remembrance, when Israelis commemorate all of the service men and women who have fallen in Israeli wars.  It takes place the day before Yom Haatzma-ut (The Day of Independence, which varies year to year because Israel follows a lunar calendar, but is typically celebrated outside of Israel on May 15), when BBQ becomes a national act as Jewish Israelis celebrate the victory of the 1948 war and Palestinians commemorate the Nakba (literally “the day of the destruction”)  and refrain from BBQ.

Last Friday we awoke to an amazingly quiet city. All of Jerusalem’s major roads were closed to traffic, and the pedestrians were out in droves. Why, you might ask? Because Jerusalem held its second International Marathon.  More than 900 runners came from all over the world to take part, and traffic came to a standstill as a result.

It was a beautiful sight to behold. All the main roads in the downtown were bursting with runners.   

According to Arutz 7, more than 15,000 took part in marathon and marathon-related running activities.

It was really quite inspiring to see so many people coming together to run. Of course for anyone trying to get out of town, it was a nightmare. Public transport shut down until 2pm, which is when things begin winding down anyway on a Fri, in preparation for the Sabbath.  As one local paper put it, if you’re not running the marathon, stay home.  I for one am glad we didn’t. In a week where most of the news focused on rockets and Iran, it was nice to end it by cheering on a sea of runners.

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