It may sound like start of joke, but it's true. Hundreds of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims participated Sunday in a marathon between Bethlehem and Jerusalem that kicked off Pope John Paul II's sporting events, being held for the seventh year.
For the first time since the second intifada in 2000, the Israeli runners were allowed to enter Bethlehem in order to join the rest of the contestants on their run after special preparations were made by the Civil Administration together with Palestinian officials that were ultimately authorized by the Central Command.
Running for peace. Marathoners in Bethlehem (Courtesy of the Tourism Ministry)
Upon arrival at the Bethlehem crossing, hundreds of participants signed a joint declaration calling upon believes throughout the world to visit the Holy Land and take action promoting peace and co-existence.
The hundreds of pilgrims who recently arrived in Israel will consecrate the new "Jesus Trail" together with Israeli and Palestinian cyclists. The path will stretch from Migdal to Capernaum. At the end of the bike ride, a mass will be held on the Sea of Galilee for the hundreds of Christian pilgrims in Israel for the events.
The sporting events are a joint venture led by the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican's pilgrim office, in conjunction with the Italian National Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Tourism, the Civil Administration, Jerusalem Municipality, Jerusalem Police, the Jewish National Fund, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, among others.
Tourism Ministry Stas Misezhnikov noted, "Unlike political initiatives of a provocative nature like we saw this morning (Sunday) in Silwan, these unique sporting events that were held at the same time in Jerusalem, contribute to co-existence. They are a fascinating meeting between Italian Catholics, Israelis, and Palestinians, that are meant to encourage pilgrimage to the Holy Land, peace, and dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians."