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‘Team Hersh’: Hundreds run Jerusalem marathon to honor Israeli captive

“Run for the captives, run for the fallen and the murdered, run for them, and run for victory. Because we all deserve to run again."

Hundreds of people participate in the Jerusalem Winner Marathon as part of “Team Hersh," in honor of Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, March 8, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
Hundreds of people participate in the Jerusalem Winner Marathon as part of “Team Hersh," in honor of Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, March 8, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

Hundreds of people participated in Friday’s Jerusalem Winner Marathon as part of “Team Hersh,” in honor of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, who was taken hostage by Hamas during its murderous onslaught in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The “Team Hersh” runners, including Jon Polin, Hersh’s father, met for a group photo near the start line inside Sacher Park at 8 a.m. “Like every hostage family, we want one thing: Our loved one at home, today,” Jon Polin told JNS. “Until that happens, the support we feel from so many people around the world strengthens us and carries us.

“It is especially heartwarming to know that nearly 300 runners will be competing in ‘Team Hersh’ shirts in the Jerusalem Marathon—the signature sporting event of the city that my son loves so much,” he said.

“Until a deal happens and the hostages walk into the arms of their loved ones, it is hard to believe rumors about deals. But we have no choice other than to remain optimistic. As Rachel [Goldberg] says, ‘Hope is mandatory,'” Polin added, referring to Hersh’s mother.

Hersh and one of his closest friends, Aner Shapira, had attended the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im opposite the Gaza Strip, where 364 young revelers were slaughtered and 40 abducted.

They tried to escape together by car, but realized that Hamas terrorists were setting up roadblocks and shooting at approaching vehicles. Instead, Hersh and a few others ran to a nearby bomb shelter. Soon, Palestinian terrorists converged on the tiny space.

“First, they started throwing grenades which Aner, positioned in the doorway, would pick up and throw back,” Rachel Goldberg recently told JNS. “He managed to throw back seven but three more detonated. It was a carnage; 29 people on top of each other in a very tight space,” she said.

The terrorists eventually fired a rocket-propelled anti-armor grenade into the shelter and sprayed it with machine gun fire. Most inside were killed.

“When the dust settled, we were told that three boys, wounded but still alive, were ordered to stand up and when they did, someone saw Hersh’s left arm had been blown off from the elbow down,” recounted  Goldberg.

Hersh‘s cell phone was last tracked at 10:25 a.m. on Oct. 7, inside the Gaza Strip.

Rachel Goldberg and her son Hersh Goldberg-Polin. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Goldberg.

On Friday, 40,000 runners and a total of around 50,000 participants were slated to take part in the marathon, a record number in the event’s 13-year history.

Among them are 6,000 reservists and their families and 7,000 soldiers. Additionally, more than 1,000 runners from abroad registered to participate in this year’s race. The marathon includes six categories: full marathon (42.2 km), half marathon (21.1 km), 10 km, 5 km, family run (1.7 km), and a community run (800 meters).

On Oct. 7, Hagi Avni, a member of Kibbutz Be’eri’s marathon team, was murdered while fighting off Hamas terrorists with the local security force. The other 11 team members were evacuated to various hotels in the Dead Sea region. Two months later, the team, along with other runners from Kibbutzim Sa’ad and Magen, resumed their running routine.

“Jerusalem Winner Marathon runners, we are here with you, at the starting line. We are happy for you and for all of us in the victory of spirit and the ability to continue living,” Maya Aidan, founder of Kibbutz Be’eri’s running team, told JNS.

“But at the same time, our victory will be complete only when we manage to return to our homes, find security, and run again in the flourishing fields of Kibbutz Be’eri. Run for the captives, run for the fallen and the murdered, run for them, and run for victory. Because we all deserve to run again,” she added.

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