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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Jerusalem Marathon

Today was the Jerusalem Marathon.

What a mess!

I used to run in my salad days. Love those endorphins!! But because of that youthful connection, I have tremendous respect for marathon (and half-marathon, and 10K runners) who braved the hilly streets and vales of Jerusalem, in the teeth of absolutely icy weather this morning.

Jerusalem is hard to explain to people, geographically as well as politically. It is built around the Old City, founded as the Jewish capital by King David 3000 years ago, and inhabited overwhelmingly by Jews during the Ottoman period and up to the time of the Jordanian ethnic cleansing of 1948.

The Old City sits on several plateaus and hills, and traverses ancient wadis. At it's greatest extent in King Herod's time, the Old City walls stretched all the way to the Russian Compound to the northwest and down to the City of David south of the southern walls today.

There is a drop off to the Vale of Kidron to the east, where the land slopes steeply up towards another ridge. The Kidron brook is no more, and the once well-watered vale is now much disputed outside-the-walls housing.

From a geographer's point of view, the city is really a bowl, with higher ridges rising all around it. The southernmost ridges are the hills of Gilo, which tower over southern Jerusalem and used to be the site of Arab artillery forces who used those heights to pummel the Jewish neighborhoods below them. To the north, the rise is not so precipitous, but there is a gradual rise towards French Hill and Mount Scopus, north of the Old City. There is a dizzying drop into the valley between the modern city's edge at Romema and the unspoiled valley below it, which in turn rises to the Ramot neighborhoods north of the city proper. The stepping stones of Ramot lead up to the plain on which Kever Shmuel sits, the site of the prophet's grave which overlooks Jerusalem to the southeast. To the east, the modern city ends at the escarpment which drops down into Ein Kerem, probably the most picturesque place in Jerusalem.

The point of this description is to point out that this is not some flat-out surface over which runners can jog along without breaking a sweat. We have serious hills. Maybe only San Francisco and Vancouver B.C. could out-do us for hilliness.

So, kol hak'vod to all the runners who ran this morning!

And may our mayor, Nir Barkat, who I truly admire, have the common sense NOT to close every major road in Jerusalem on the Erev Shabbat again!

Run this race, yes! But run it on a weekday, or on a holiday, or make the day itself a city holiday, whatever!! But DO NOT close the roads. This is my day, many working folks' day, to shop for groceries. Major shopping during the week is often not practical, especially if you have chuggim for children, work late, or have other pressing time commitments which make shopping something done on the "weekend." Getting to Rami Levi, a grocery store usually 5 minutes from me, was a nightmare.

First, we went the wrong way, thinking that somewhere along Derech Hebron there must be some left turn allowed. Wrong!

We got all the way to Tzomet HaBankim and gave up, turning up Ein Gedi and then U-turning back down to Derech Hebron, only to move like molasses to the Gilo turn off in the hopes that we could enter Talpiot from Gilo.

Probably we could have--but we took a short cut. We turned down into Tantur, an Arab suburb of Beit Safafa, and followed a rural road that ran from Tantur to the center of Beit Safafa, where we wended our way carefully through the narrows of the old city by the mosque and then through Beit Safafa into Talpiot.

[Noto bene: this is why people who blithely recommend 'dividing Jerusalem' along the 1948 lines are idiots. There are no lines on the ground, and these neighborhoods by now all blend together like a melting jig-saw puzzle.]

So, we got to shop for the week and for Shabbat, ran to Canyon Malcha for challah and deserts, picked up some pre-made salads (because we have company for Shabbat and want to put out enough to please them and honor Shabbat), and then crawled home through traffic, "crawled" being the operative word.

Everywhere we drove, at a snail's pace, people rolled down their windows and called out. "Is there a left turn down farther?" [No] "Does the road open up ahead?" [No--what you see is what you get.] "How long have you been driving southbound?" [It took us 30 minutes to get from Tzomet haBankim to Gilo, ok?]. And so on...

But for an unruly rude people who hate standing in line, Jerusalemites for the most part took it in stride, with some complaining, but with a shrug of the shoulders, and "ma la'asot?"

Note to the mayor, with all due respect: How about, "Next Year NOT In Jerusalem?"


Blogger Isreview said...

I understand your frustration and yes people really did take it in stride
I saw many people walking to and from their errands ...
Was shocked that a post office was actually closed because of the Marathon but
I gotta say as a bike rider it was the most pleasant day on earth...
I had all the roads to myself:)

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 2:53:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you will want to place a facebook icon to your website. I just bookmarked the site, however I must do this manually. Just my advice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 10:38:00 PM GMT+2  

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