The city of Jerusalem has raised the Syrian flag in honor of a Damascus-born athlete who registered to run in the city’s marathon, The Times of Israel reported  Thursday.
Syrian-born Hasan Aljijakli, who has also lived in the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands, registered to run in Friday’s marathon. It isn’t clear if Aljijakli will actually run in the marathon, as he has reportedly not yet picked up his packet for the race.
Nonetheless, a Syrian flag was raised near Israel’s Knesset along the route of the 26.2-mile race. According  to the municipality, the placement of the Syrian flag was just a coincidence.
Moshe Lion, the mayor of Jerusalem, explained to Ynet, “In the past 24 hours, 80 flags from the 80 countries from which the runners have come to run have been raised on the streets of Jerusalem.”
“In the united capital of Israel, we respect everyone and believe that sports do not mix with politics,” the mayor added. “Sports are a bridge to connect between different peoples and cultures.”
Because Israel and Syria are in a state of war, special arrangements are usually needed for Syrian nationals to visit Israel.
Previously, Aljijakli, a professional runner, has competed in several marathons and has registered a personal best of 3:06:58. According to the Jerusalem Marathon’s website, Aljijakli’s home club is Rotterdam Atletiek. He has trained for several years with the UAE’s Desert Road Runners Club and improved his times.
Overall, 38,000 runners from around the world have registered to participate in Friday’s races.
Last year, 35,000 runners from 72 countries participated in the Jerusalem marathon and associated races. Kipkogey Shadrack won the men’s race, and Emily Chepkemoi Samoei finished first in the women’s. Both winning runners are from Kenya.
[Photo: עיריית ירושלים / Facebook ]