Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jerusalem Experiences

By Ross Forman

The day after running the Jerusalem Marathon, I was at Masada, the ruins of King Herod’s mountaintop fortress and last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 73 C.E.

Masada is a World Heritage Site by U.N.E.S.C.O. (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and the tram ride to the top only takes about three minutes.

But I, instead, hiked to the top, as did a few other runners.

Hey, we’re marathon runners. We choose to run 26.2 miles, so a 30-minute hike to the top of Masada isn’t too bad, right?

Masada proved to be on of the many awe-inspiring sights I saw here in Israel. I can’t say it was my favorite, though it truly is incredible, mostly because there is so much to Israel.

Here are some of my other Israel highlights, after the three minute tram ride down to the base of Masada:

• Floating in the Dead Sea is … bizarre. I’m not sure how else to describe the experience, but everyone should do it at least once. This was, unlike climbing up Masada, something I am glad I did the day after running the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday morning, March 16.

• I walked through the open-air market in Tel Aviv, where fruit, vegetables, clothing and more is sold. The adjacent arts & crafts bazaar had some great offerings. I’d go back to both, especially the later.

• Watching a Sound & Light Show at the Tower Museum of David was just cool. Imagine being in a theatre, sans popcorn, but instead of a simple screen, you watch the video on ancient walls. Really good. Also though, was really cold that night (March 13).

• Speaking of cold, in conjunction with the marathon, there was an awesome Ice Festival, featuring hand-carved ice sculptures, including, animals, a bar, and even a slide. And yes, of course I slid down it – a few times. The temperature inside was about 20 degrees, and organizers gave attendees a jacket to wear inside. Very nice.

• I stayed at the Prima Kings Hotel in Jerusalem, where they had a great breakfast and dinner buffet. How ironic, my egg-white omelet was made every morning by Vladimir, who hails from Highland Park, Ill. I also enjoyed meeting Akram, who worked in the restaurant. Prima Kings = prime location.

• Be sure to check out the Mamilla section of Jerusalem. Modern and trendy with an old-school touch.

• Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ran the 13.1-mile Half Marathon. “We know that people don’t come to (run the) Jerusalem Marathon to break their (personal) record (time) since Jerusalem is a hilly city,” he said. “(The course) poses a lot of (physical) challenges, however, there’s no doubt in my mind that, in a short period of time, the Jerusalem Marathon is quickly (joining) that short list of marathons that people around the world have to run at least once.”

• More than 15,000 runners participated in one of numerous races. There were, for instance, 1,000 who ran the full 26.2-mile marathon, 4,000 with Barkat who ran the half marathon, and the remainder ran the 10K race. There were about 1,500 runners in Jerusalem from abroad and more than 50 countries were represented along the course. The 2012 race was 50 percent larger than the inaugural edition—and no doubt will just continue to expand.

• Quoting Mayor Barkat: “Half the population in the world, (that’s about) 3.5 billion people of faith, would like to come and visit Jerusalem at least once in their lifetime. The Holy City is a city that goes deep into the heart of people all over the world. Myself, and the Municipality of Jerusalem, are working to make Jerusalem more accessible, to make Jerusalem more attractive, more practical to come and visit.”

• I really enjoyed going through the Old City, and will admit that I was surprised it includes an Armenian quarter. Seeing the Western Wall (in the Jewish Quarter) is breath-taking.

• The view from the Haas Promenade is super cool.

• Enjoyed Mount of Olives.

• Also enjoyed Ein Karem, the birthplace of John The Baptist.

• Yad Vashem is tears … 6 million tears. So impressive is the tribute, still so sad.

• What about safety? Well, I felt safer in Israel than I do quite often in Chicago. Not once did I feel scared, nervous or threatened. Get over the fear, as I have, and go over to Israel – you’ll be thrilled you did, as I was.

Happy trails,


P.S. The trendy food in Jerusalem is an appetizer made from eggplant. I had it at almost every dinner, and now kinda miss it. Guess I gotta go back.


Sara said...

Again, I enjoyed this recap and hearing more about Jerusalem. I would love to see it someday.

Thank you so much for sharing and including pictures! So exciting and what an amazing experience.

David Haas said...

I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?