Malka Garber toured Jerusalem in exactly one hour, nineteen minutes and three seconds.
The 19-year-old SAR High School graduate was one of over 25,000 people who took part in this year’s Jerusalem Marathon on March 21, running a 10-kilometer race with other students in her gap year program.
The city’s hills were a challenge for Ms. Garber, who was used to running on flat ground or treadmills. As an eight-grade student at SAR Academy, she was a member of “Running with the Rabbi,” a club of 15 students that jogged around Van Cortlandt Park with the principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss.
But Vannie’s track did not prepare her for the cobblestone streets in Jerusalem, which were hard on her feet, or the inclines she and the other runners traversed.
“They chose the biggest hills in Jerusalem,” she said with a laugh. “But once you got up to the top, you knew you had to go down and it was a good feeling.”
Ms. Garber ran with a group of students and staff from AMIT, the Jewish studies program she is attending for her gap year before she goes on to study at Queens College. She is one of 46 girls in the Jerusalem program who study, work with and live in the same building as 120 foster children who range from ages 6 to 14.
The girls are placed in “mispachtons,” or family units, with 12 foster children and a young volunteer couple acting as mentors for the students.
“I love kids and I always have,” said Ms. Garber, who plans to study pre-med in college and eventually work in pediatrics. The girls from AMIT who ran in the marathon raised over $16,000 through sponsors of their runs. The money will go toward bar and bat mitzvah celebrations for the foster children.
“Even though I know I’m going back in four weeks, it was so hard for me to leave them,” said Ms. Garber, who flew back from Israel for a four-week break for Passover.
Returning to Riverdale after a long absence was a strange experience for her.
“Everything is so different. There are brick buildings and not Jerusalem stone,” she said. “Seeing where I went to high school, and I don’t go there anymore… I miss it.”
Ms. Garber, who began training for the 10K in December, is taking a break from running on her vacation from AMIT: she left her sneakers behind in Israel.
But the run had a lasting effect on her. She would like to return to Israel next year, not only to visit the foster children in her mispachton, but to run in her second Jerusalem marathon.
“I keep saying that I wish I brought my sneakers so I could go and run a little bit,” she said. “Because it’s part of me now.”