JERUSALEM, Israel – An international organization kicked out Israel's "Bible Marathon" from its membership just before its third annual run, slated for October 6.
The marathon traces the route "the man of Benjamin" ran, recorded in 1 Sam. 4:12, from the northern Israeli city of Rosh Ha'Ayin to Shiloh, a Jewish community in Samaria, which some call the West Bank.
The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) revoked the membership of the Bible Marathon after supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose aim is to delegitimize Israel, claimed the marathon's route violates international law.
AIMS notified the event's organizers of its decision, based on claims that the marathon goes beyond the boundaries of the State of Israel, thereby violating Resolution 2334 of the United Nations Security Council.
The Israeli Marathon Association turned to Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum, who is also a professor of international law at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill., to address the accusation from a legal point of view.
Kontorovich outlined his response in a letter to AIMS's president, showing why a cultural or sports event such as the Bible Marathon is not in violation of any law and is, in fact, a common practice worldwide.
"There is no international law that prohibits running the route of the world's oldest race because it finishes in ancient Shiloh," Kontorovich wrote. "You can't have one international law for Israel and another for the rest of the world. By definition international law applies to everybody."
Kontorovich submitted a list of annual sporting events – including marathons – that are held in disputed territories.
"AIMS has for many years given full membership to the Laayoune Marathon, which takes place entirely in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara," he wrote. "Indeed, on the AIMS website and catalog, the event is described as being in 'Morocco' despite the rejection of this characterization by the international community, which regards it as occupied."
According to Israel's Foreign Ministry, in the early 70s Yosef Yekutieli, the founder of the Jewish Olympics, Maccabiah Games, decided to measure the distance recorded in 1 Samuel. To his astonishment, he discovered its length – 42 kilometers – matched the official length of Olympic marathons, established in 1908 at the London Olympics.
Despite AIMS's decision, runners from Israel and abroad plan to take part in the third annual Bible Marathon. While organizers hope AIMS will reverse its decision, it expects thousands of Bible-believing Jews and Christians to submit formal complaints to AIMS for rescinding membership of the Bible Marathon based on its biblical roots.