(photo: Itay Akirav)

(photo: Itay Akirav)

By Melanie Lidman - March 5, 2015

Originally appeared here in the Times of Israel

More than 25,000 people are expected to pound the pavement on March 13 for the fifth (full) Jerusalem marathon, including 2,200 from 60 countries other than Israel and 6,000 people running to raise money for charity. If you’re one of the participants, or cheering along the sidelines, keep your eyes peeled for a dozen teenage girls in white shirts. They may not be talking to each other, because they don’t speak the same language, but they’ll certainly be rooting for one another

The girls are members of a new running initiative called “Runners Without Borders” that brings Arab, Jewish, and Armenian girls together. But unlike other coexistence initiatives spearheaded by international groups or well-established organizations with executive boards and fundraising committees, the powerhouse behind this running group is a high school student and runner named Shoshana Ben-David from Jerusalem.

“Last summer, because the whole situation was so tense, I really felt the increase in the racism and the violence,” said Ben-David, 18. “I felt that I had to do something, and I wanted to something for teenage girls because I saw that girls are doing a lot less sport than the boys are doing. So I said, why not kill two birds with one stone? Let’s combine this together with doing something about the terrible political situation.”

Runners Without Borders has two goals: to help young women improve their self-confidence and body image through sports, and to bring disparate communities together, Ben-David explained. Read More