Going to an extreme for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal

Ultra-marathoners: Jason Gardner, Levi Levine, Marc Romaine, Amir Ben Gal (principle of mekor chaim), Tamir Sachs, Justin Rockman

Support staff: Eden Einav, Dalia Auman, Daniel Reidler, Chelsea, Michal Belzberg, Tamar Simon

Logistics: Rebecca Fuhrman and Trevor Solomons

Photographer: Jeffrey Worthington

 

On Monday night, members of Team OneFamily Elite, decided to plan an Ultramarathon for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal.

The first question was – is this something the families will want?

Before getting the answer, the guys started carb-loading, just in case..

 

The first visit, before the run was to Talmon, to visit the Shaar family – Gilad’s family.

The families were expecting us – but we had no idea what to expect.

The street was shut down with a police blockade, we approached their house and spoke the family spokesperson, they were expecting us.

We entered the backyard…. It was filled with people, children, teens of all ages… sitting in circles, with sforim open, learning.

There was that incredible ebb and flow of torah.. weaving through their yard.

A few girls came over and asked where we were from – OneFamily – smiles stretched across their faces, we started playing “oneFamily Jewish geography”. Gilad’s older sister, Shiral, came over to speak to us, introducing her father Ofir.

We stood there for 25 minutes talking.

Shiral spoke about going to the kotel, alone with her friend the day before to pray — the media has been incredibly respectful of the families and their privacy – which was evident by her ability to go there without being identified…

We showed her photos of Sunday night, the mass tefillah, she had heard about it, but had not seen any photos…

We spoke to them about why we were doing this – why we were running, the potential impact this would have on one person – Ofir said the most moving statement, providing the guys the boost to run as hard as they did by saying – “you have already made an impact on two people, me and my wife”

We gave them the book of letters from people around the world. They have been humbled by the outpour of support.

We exchanged phone numbers, made a whatsapp group with Shiral and her sisters, and promised to send photos the entire way.

We left the house, and davened maariv with a group of middle school boys from the community.

I asked them what they were learning – “tefillah, emunah…”

Before leaving Talmon, we visited one of the neighbors, one of Gilad’s friends and Amir’s student. I want to say simply – Talmon is an incredible community, the families have stood waiting alongside the Shaar family.

 

We returned to Jerusalem .. picked up the rest of the runners, filled up the car with gas, and headed to the kotel..

The guys were ready. They stood together, and said tehillim. Praying for a safe return. Praying that Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal would be home soon.

 

And then they started running… and running… and running…

They guys said dvrei torah, sang, and said tehillim along the way.

It is hard to describe the running – Its hard, they climbed mountains.

 

I spoke with Justin Rockman Thursday night, I was in supersol, he was in NY… about to take off, in the background the flight attendants were telling him to get off his phone.. he was trying to figure out where we would be when he landed so that he could join in — which he did, in Latrun, straight from the airport.

 

We got to Nof Ayalon around 8:00 in the morning.

The Frenkels were dropping of their children at school. The normalcy of that was shocking – Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal are not only children – they have siblings, older and younger.

All the runners are parents, they all have children…

I know that this all weighs more heavily on parents.

We visited with Naftali’s father — the guys gave him the book of letters from people around the world.

Naftali’s father spoke with us about how appreciative he was of what we were doing. He told us that he really appreciates everyone’s prayers and efforts, but to see people taking on such a physically challenging act was truly touching. One of the runners responded that they are runners. This is something they can do, and they wanted to do what they could, so there they were. Naftali’s father also told us to continue praying and continue doing good deeds.

Amir and Naftali’s father shook hands at the end, staring at each other, eyes filled with tears, not saying a word.

 

At that point it was 34 degrees out. It was getting dangerous.. there is no shade on the roads…

We decided to switch from an “escorted ultramarathon” to a relay – where one runner runs for 3-5K at a time and then switches with another runner.

As we ran though Modiin, we were greeted by ~40 people cheering on the team. Several families were informed of our plans, and they wanted to share their support for us, in support of the boys’ families as well. They took to the streets with iced coffee, cold fruit, and other refreshments, in order to re-energize the runners for their last bit of running. When we arrived, they were cheering for us, while raising “#Bring Back Our Boys” signs.

At Tzomet Shilat, the temperature had gone up to 36, and I had no choice but to pull them off the road. Though some of them were insisting on continuing, it was simply not safe.

 

We drove to Elad – we knew that Eyal’s family was meeting with Bibi on Friday morning, but we wanted to drop off the letters.

The guys hope to run the “last 30K” later this week.

 

They want the boys to know – that “WE” will “run” to the end of the earth to find them.

 

The impact the run had on the families and their communities was why we ran – and exceeded expectations.

 

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