Hundreds of residents of Kiryat Arba and its surroundings stood last Friday on the starting line of the “Race of the Patriarchs.”
The Jewish fellows tied up their beards and affixed their skullcaps with clips in preparation for the race, and soldiers fanned out the length of the course, right up to Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. And who won? A standing ovation for Abdullah Musrawwa (41), an Israeli Arab from the running group Ayalot, who made his way from his village of Kufr Qara in the North in order to participate in the race of the settlers. At the end of the day, the Arab racer stood at the head of the podium, and modestly received the trophy for his age category.
What did the locals say? “We were very sportsmanlike about it,” said Shlomo Halba, the manager of Kiryat Arba’s Athletic Department on Wednesday. “Runners come to us from all over the country, and we are happy to welcome an Arab runner for the first time. Despite the violent image that others try to attach to us, Kiryat Arba is, first and foremost, a symbol of humanity. We try to be good neighbors with everyone, including the Arabs. We are happy and proud that Abdullah accepted the trophy. If only he would bring all his fellows next year.”
After he ran those five kilometers at great speed, Musrawwa received the trophy from none other than the head of the local council, Malachi Levinger—son of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the foremost ideologue of the early settler movement.
“You want the truth? The truth is that I was very moved because it was Kiryat Arba,” Abdullah confessed. “Before I made the trip, I consulted with several people in my sector, and they said that there’s some tension. I came quietly and tried not to attract attention, but the minute I began, everything went smoothly.”
What does he think about the way he was received? “Malachi was really moved and gave me a wonderful feeling. He said ‘thanks so much for coming,’ that made me happy and gave me a push. Inshallah, next time I’m bringing with me all my friends in my community.”
The runner from Kufr Qara does not stop. He intends to race on Thursday in the Menachem Begin race in Jerusalem in the hope of earning another trophy identified with the Israeli right.