I brought my running gear to Israel and didn’t wear it once. We were too busy snorkeling, riding busses, touring, hopping taxis, trekking through deserts and riding camels to make the time for running, and yet, I feel as if I’ve run a marathon.
I’m finding it difficult to compact ten days of adventure into a single blog. I could talk about unplugging, the horrors of family-friendly resorts at Christmastime, the luxury of Jordanian hospitality, the poverty of Jordanian people, the IDF or the soul-soothing beauty of the Holy Land. But I will start with this topic: Israelis can RUN.
Every morning, I would sit on the hotel balcony and watch the sun rise over the Red Sea, drink my coffee and watch runners go by–and there were many.
One morning when my husband and I ventured out for cappuccino and free wifi (*note: I will address my unplugging hypocrisy in another blog) there were packs of runners, each looking as if they could be RW cover models.
I would love to run the Jerusalem marathon in March, but after spending a couple days in the very hilly city, I realized that not only would I have to be in great shape to tackle the hills, but I would have to be in the best shape of my life to finish by Shabbat.
Eilat, touching the Red Sea, is the ideal runner’s paradise in winter. The temperature was cool each morning and the sun was always shining. You could literally run from Jordan to Egypt in a single training run. Eilat is where we spent most of our time, with side trips to Jerusalem and to Petra, Jordan.
One day in Eilat, we were heading towards the nice beach (in front of the ritzy hotel, where we were NOT staying), when a woman bolted from the shopping mall on our right. She was frantically talking into a cell phone, paused for a moment a few yards in front of us, and then dashed off.
The first thing I noticed was her running. It was not girly, late-for-a-bus running. This was perfect, gazelle-like form. I paused to admire her, the way a kid on a tricycle watches a motorcycle zoom by, when people with guns seemed to spring from nowhere, and rushed past us down the promenade. Some of the people were in uniforms, but many, like the cell phone woman, were wearing average getup like jeans and tank tops.
A police car soon followed, and as the commotion built, we decided to head back to the hotel for a pool day.
The episode brought home the fact that we were not touring your average resort town. This was a place where guys wearing jogging pants might have machine guns strapped to their sides. Where that pack of awesomely fit runners might chase down someone who would hurt you. It is a place where your bus gets periodically boarded by people with guns. It is a place where a Humvee escorts your bus for certain portions of the highway.
There are security checks at every public building and concerned officials will sincerely look you in the eye and say, “I’m afraid someone will ask you to carry a package for them and it will be a bomb.” To their credit, they never added, “because you look like an ignorant tourist.”
The funny thing is that all of the security measures and the guys with guns made me feel safe. Many American cities are more dangerous than Jerusalem or Wadi Musa–and many are certainly more dangerous than Eilat.
Would I go back to Israel?
In an instant.
Would I run a marathon there?
Maybe if I train like a soldier.