Running on the Coexistence Trail

Sunday, April 07, 2013 12:16 PM

“This is an amazing event that expresses the coexistence which characterizes daily life between the residents of the region.”

The scenic landscapes on the Galilee Coexistence Trail between Dalton and Gush Halav were a fantastic backdrop for the Merom Hagalil – KKL-JNF race that took place during the Passover holiday. Hundreds of local residents and athletes from all over Israel took part in the project, which was made possible by a contribution from the Ergas-Lopez family of Chile.

Group photo at the starting point. Photo: Yoav Devir

The experienced runners participated in a competitive route 10 kilometers long that started at the Dalton industrial park and continued in the direction of Gush Halav on a road paved by KKL-JNF thanks to a donation from the Ergas-Lopez family of Chile. The less experienced athletes, including many children, made do with a popular segment 2 kilometers long.

On regular days, the Coexistence Trail mainly serves the residents of the vicinity, who go out to walk or run in the morning or evening and enjoy the beautiful and safe route. On the way, they also get to know their neighbors of different religions—Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. Could there be a better way to bring hearts together than a sporting event together in natural surroundings?

L-R: Jaris Abu Hana and Roi Richard. Photo: Yoav Devir

Jaris Abu Hana from the town of Miilya, who came to run in the race, was there with his wife and his two sons. “I run in marathons and take part in races in all kinds of places,” he said, “and it’s good that there’s an event like this close to home. When you do sports together, it’s a great way to get familiar, and it promotes coexistence.”
Next to Abu Hana, doing warm ups before the race, was his friend from their running club, Roi Richard from the town of Kfar Vradim. Richard gave his friend a hug and said with a smile, “Although Jaris and I are good friends, and with all due respect to coexistence, I usually just see his back, but at least he waits for me at the finish line.”

The opening shot was heard, and the 160 runners took off. The route passed through green hills with colorful spring wildflowers, pools of water and grazing cows. Now and then, the runners could see Passover vacationers hiking on foot, riding bicycles, and even on horseback. Obviously none of them stopped to admire the scenery or greet the visitors. They were there to compete and were hoping to win the race.

After a little more than half an hour, the first runners received applause as they crossed the finish line. Coming in first was Nofar Sasson, who made excellent time in 35 minutes and 53 seconds. “It was slightly less than 10 kilometers,” he said modestly. Not to worry, however, as everyone who finished received a medal, which the children were especially proud to wear. Trophies were also given to the winners of the different groups—women, men, youth and so on.

Ecological arts and crafts. Photo: Yoav Devir

At the trophy award ceremony, Amit Sofer, the head of the Merom Hagalil Regional Council, who was also racer number 156 in the competitive race, said, “This is an amazing event that expresses the coexistence which characterizes daily life between the residents of the region.”

The race was held in memory of Eliashiv and Neria Attias from the nearby village of Bar Yohai, who perished along with their parents and four of their siblings in a fatal car accident on their way home from the dedication of a synagogue. Eight members of their family were killed in the accident, which occurred about a year ago and shocked the entire country. Only the seven-year-old little sister, Rahel Efrat, survived.

Eliashiv and Neria were members of the local running club. Their friends were the ones who initiated the race in their memory. Yossi Hod, an athlete and a police sapper from Bar Yohai, was the moving force behind the organization of the race. He expressed his certainty that in view of its success, the race would become a tradition, increase awareness about the sport and become one of Israel's most important running events. A relative of the departed family, Yishai Attias, also took part in the event and thanked all the participants for honoring the memory of his dear relatives.

Race winner Nofar Sasson. Photo: Yoav Devir

The event organizers also took advantage of the opportunity to address the issue of road safety, and instead of beautiful words and reading materials, they asked for volunteers from among the participants to get into a special car and feel what it is like when a car overturns. The car seats which moved and stopped abruptly showed everyone how important it is to wear a seatbelt.

In addition to the running there were arts and crafts activities for the children and the whole family using natural materials. Pinecones, dried corncobs, branches, fruits from different plants and wooden sticks were transformed into different creations—cars, animals and anything else you could imagine.

Sayama Shagua from the village of Rehaniya made an airplane out of recycled materials with her children Wass (5) and Naf (2). Her husband Rudin took part in the race, but his children didn't waste their time and they displayed their beautiful creations. “It’s so nice that there are fun things for the children to do while the runners run,” said Shagua. “This is my husband’s first real race, so we had to come and cheer him on. We hope that he will be running in marathons by next year, and who knows, maybe the children will run with him when they get older.”

Adi Bloom from Even Yehuda was there with her father Barak. He ran in the competitive race, but she was happy to run in the popular race along with about a hundred other beginners. “I love running, but the truth is it was pretty hard, and it’s great that there are other fun things to do here,” said Adi, summing up the day as she finished making a straw hut out of twigs.

Watch Video: Racing for Coexistence in the Galilee

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