Runners Without Borders

The past few months in Jerusalem have been chaotic. A new terror attack almost every day and ongoing violence between Jews and Arabs in the city. As an Israeli Jewish citizen of the city who loves to run surrounded by its beautiful holly views, I felt like I had to take action following the violence, hatred and racism rising within the city after the 2014 Israeli operation "Protective Edge" in Gaza. I was born and raised in a reform Jewish home that has always taught me to respect and accept other cultures and to take social action as part of the Jewish value "Tikun Olam"- fixing the world.

As I grew up, it became clearer to me that I live in a city where a third of its population is Arab and I don't have one Arab friend and have never really interacted with Arab girls my age. As a keen runner I also noticed that not too many teenage girls get out and run in this beautiful city, especially from the more conservative Jewish and Muslim societies. So I decided to combine my two passions, running and co-existence and create a running group that would include Jewish and Arab girls from East and West Jerusalem. And so in November 2014, the girls group of "Runners without Borders" was formed.

We started training every week with a professional trainer, girls 15-19 years old in all running levels, including inexperienced runners, and grew bigger and bigger each week. This was a true interfaith meeting, Jewish, Muslim and Christian girls running as equals on the same track. As time went by we got to know each other more and discovered that the differences are minor compare to the similarities between us. Our Journey continued through the Jerusalem marathon in March 2015 where we ran 5K together, and eventually we ran 10KM in the Milano marathon in April 2015. One of the best moments that year was when an Arab girl came up to me by the end of the 10K race and said to me; "Shoshana I never thought I could do this, thank you". At that moment I new all my hard work had paid off.

Of course this all wasn't easy. Not only is there a deep political and national barrier between Jewish and Arab teenage girls, but also a big cultural issue within the more conservative Jewish and especially Muslim societies, not allowing girls to be out of the home after school and especially not running in public. We have managed to reach girls from the more conservative societies, and hope that more and more girls from these societies join us over time.

Running together also meant getting to know each other's cultural and religious backgrounds and taking them in to account. For incidence, when the Jerusalem Official night run was conducted in June 2015 on the first night of the Ramadan fast we decided to create our very own race in Jerusalem a week earlier and invited the public from both societies to come and run with us. 100 people joined us and It was an incredible event!

Now we are an official NGO managing four mixed running groups in Jerusalem: Men, Women, Girls and Boys, and our boys group, managed by Israel Haas has concurred Berlin as well in the past August Berlin marathon 10 Km race. We are hoping to expand our activity to other mixed cities in Israel, such as Jaffa and Haifa and have more and more people from both communities join us. We believe that despite all the violence going on in the city done by extremist it is important to empower the voices of the citizens who want to live in peace together in Jerusalem. We believe that through the youth, our next generation, We can create real true dialogue between the two sides and lead to a better, brighter future in Jerusalem. Follow our activity on Facebook.