By: ABIGAIL KLEIN LEICHMAN
It is no small wonder that Kay Wilson was able to hold a water bottle as she walked the 10 kilometer route in the International Jerusalem Winner Marathon last week. It is no minor miracle that she had shoes on her feet.
Every step she took toward the finish line contrasted sharply to another difficult walk she took three years ago – to seek help after being left for dead by a terrorist.
“I walked over a mile after I’d been stabbed 13 times with a machete, gagged, bound and barefoot, with 30 broken bones, a crushed sternum and a dislocated shoulder. I did that walk thinking I was going to die, and now I’m a free person,” Wilson said.
“I’ve come to value freedom in ways that I took for granted before. I am not gagged, my hands are not bound, I can wipe sweat off my forehead, and I am free to go where I want.”
The 49-year-old tour guide and jazz performer from Modi’in, along with nearly 280 other runners, participated in the marathon on behalf of Jerusalem-based nonprofit OneFamily (www.onefamilytogether.org), which provides emotional, legal and financial assistance to people hurt by terrorism and war.
Another Team OneFamily member, Izzy Ezagui, lost an arm while serving in the IDF on the Gaza border in 2008. “What you may not know is that OneFamily held me up during my long recovery; that they were with me every step of the way. I don’t believe I would’ve had the strength to make it through the many hardships without the personal touch and the endless support of One- Family,” Ezagui explains on his sponsor page.
Also participating was Tamar Fogel, 15, whose parents, two brothers and baby sister were murdered in a terrorist attack in Itamar almost exactly three years before the marathon.
OneFamily currently assists more than 3,550 traumatized, wounded and bereaved families such as the Fogels.
Rebecca Fuhrman, director of communications and the coordinator of Team OneFamily, says the organization has participated in the Jerusalem Marathon since its founding in 2011. This year it is one of 16 Israeli NGOs raising funds via marathon pledges. “We always talk about having a larger family – not just victims of terror, but also people throughout Israel and supporters throughout the world who help victims on their journey to rebuild their lives. Our donors embrace being part of that family, and the marathon is a perfect example of supporters running alongside victims,” she said.
The team, which also includes 100 bereaved parents, was larger than in previous years. Some did the 800-meter “Race for a Cause,” while others ran or walked the 5K race, the 10K, the half marathon or the full 42K route. Founder and chairman of the board Marc Belzberg was in the 10K group with the majority of the team’s runners.
Fuhrman pointed out that many intifada terror attacks happened along the route of last week’s marathon. Running past them as part of an international sporting event feels like a sweet victory. “We all ran at our own paces and on different routes, but all of us wore red shirts saying ‘The Power of Together’ on the back. We’re all making a statement that the intifada was less than 10 years ago and yet we feel comfortable enough to run freely through the streets of Jerusalem despite the many lives that were shattered in these locations,” said Fuhrman, who was injured in the bus bombing across from the Jerusalem International Convention Center three days before the first marathon.
Fuhrman reported that Team OneFamily raised more than $65,000 from the 2014 event. “Many of our runners have said they want to come back and run again for OneFamily and get involved in our organization other ways,” she said on Sunday, after the run. Wilson had already run a few half-marathons before that fateful December day in 2010, when she and her friend Kristine Luken went hiking in the Mata Forest near Beit Shemesh. The women had begun feeling uneasy about their safety and had decided to turn back when they were attacked from behind.
Over the next hellish half hour, Wilson was bound, gagged, slashed and beaten, while Luken was murdered a few feet away. The attackers left only when they thought both women were dead.
Before the Jerusalem Marathon, Wilson was not certain she’d be able to complete the whole 10 kilometers due to residual pain, but over the past three years she has learned to pace her progress incrementally.
“Breaking down insurmountable obstacles one at a time lets me get through each day despite what I face psychologically and physically,” she said in an interview from London a week before the marathon, where she was on a speaking tour on behalf of the pro-Israel education and advocacy organization Stand-WithUs.
“Anybody who runs marathons knows it’s difficult, but it’s no good thinking at the starting line how long you have to go. You make small goals and reach them one step at a time. That parallels my existence today.”
In fact, she did go the whole route on marathon day. “Comparatively, walking through the forest with all my injuries was a million times harder than being cheered on by thousands of people. It was a totally different type of exertion,” she said.
“I felt I had a goal, not just for myself. Everybody has difficulties, and if people know my story and see me doing this, maybe it can urge them on to get through a particular problem in their own life.”
Wilson, who made aliya from London in 1991, said OneFamily understands that “terror attacks do not have a shelf life. And that’s huge, because life goes back to normal for other people and you can’t drag them down if you’re having a bad day. But at OneFamily, they don’t expect you to ‘just get over it.’ They know how to relate to you and they never forget.”
Other Israeli organizations sponsoring teams on race day were the Israel Cancer Association, Shalva, Yachad, Chai Lifeline, ALEH, Beit Issie Shapiro, House of Wheels, Merkaz Panim, Crossroads, Darkaynu, Neshima, Prize4Life, Kav L’Noar, The Blue Card and Zichron Menachem. ■