December 20, 2007: Under Our Feet

Running is like biking – same outfit, fewer moving parts

Last Thursday I decided to enter a running race. What makes this decision a little strange is that I cannot honestly describe myself as a runner. You know the type: someone who runs in all types of weather and uses glue to keep their running shoes from disintegrating. No, I like to ride bikes and stay in shape, but until a few months ago, I never really ran anywhere unless I was late.

So for some reason I am not completely sure about, I decided to enter a “half-marathon.” I had heard that there is a race in Bet Shean that is mostly flat and would be fun. But I figured a “half-marathon” would be tough, but how difficult can anything be if it starts with the word “half?”

So I ran about twice a week for a couple of months and then drove up to Bet Shean. I was pretty excited that I was able to register and make it to the starting line. I consider it a success every time I am able to navigate my way through a non-English event using crude Hebrew, facial expressions, and a lot of pointing. Sure enough, I got my number, found a bathroom, and was in the right place for the starting gun.

We started running and I was having a blast. Thousands of runners started off together and hearing everyone’s running shoes hitting the pavement at the same time is really neat. There were all different types of people there: religious, secular, young, old – and there I was right in the middle just thinking how much fun it was to be running in the sun in the middle of the land of Israel. I was getting a little tired but feeling proud to be holding my own and then I saw a flag with a marker under it. The marker said “Three Kilometers.” Hmm… Maybe this would be a long day.

As I ran, I could not help but think that not too long ago, enemy missiles reached all the way to Bet Shean. (Remember that little war where we acted “disproportionately?”) I also thought about the image that most people around the world, including supporters of Israel, see on the news. Israelis are not running around in half-marathons. We are all running screaming away from bombings. We don’t gather in large numbers in public, right? We are afraid to go to public events for fear that someone will start shooting. At least that is the image that is beamed into everyone’s homes around the world.

Now, of course, I am not naïve and know that our nation has suffered more than our share of pain. We do sometimes have to take precautions that you wouldn’t think of in the U.S. “Let’s not take that road today, there were kids throwing rocks at cars there yesterday.” Yet the political situation does not impact our lives as much as you would think. My Israel is not a place of sirens, and guns, and bombs. My Israel is a place of mountain bikes, midnight hikes, and running in the sun. Both places exist, we must each determine which one we see ourselves in.

So as the kilometers flew (well actually crawled) by, I thought about how fortunate I am to live here, in this giant, crazy, lovable playground.

As far as I am concerned, the real Israel is not on the news, it’s under our feet.

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