The Americans are not accustomed to terrorism, certainly not the kind that strikes in the middle of a joyous event like a marathon. Even the 17 Israelis who signed up to run the Boston Marathon found it hard, at first, to comprehend that the explosions were indeed a terrorist attack.
Maria Valsenko still vividly remembers the explosion in 2001 in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood. On Monday everything came rushing back to her like a nightmare. Maria, a graduate student at Columbia University in New York, came to Boston to run the marathon. Several minutes after crossing the finish line, her proud moment turned into one of shock.
"I was 300 meters (less than 1,000 feet) from there, and the joy from crossing the finish line was wiped out by a despicable attack," she told Israel Hayom.
Nine of the 17 Israelis who registered to run finished the race. Tzvika Bronstein also came to Boston to run the race. "I finished the marathon and on my way back to the hotel I heard the blast," he said. "At first I didn't make the connection to terrorism, and I ignored it. I even sent a text message to my wife that I had finished, without even telling her about the explosion."
Orit Trumper-Sela, the director of human resources for EMC in Israel, flew to participate in the race after winning a raffle at work. She was already at the final kilometer mark when everything came to a halt. "I didn't understand what was happening," she recalled, "I thought something had happened to one of the runners. It's unbelievable that I came from 'dangerous' Israel to a marathon that ended in such a way. It's incomprehensible."
Yaron Tubin, on sabbatical in Boston with his wife, stopped running 200 meters from the finish line. "The explosion was really right in front of me," he said. "It feels inconceivable that it could be a terrorist attack, but the Israeli head takes over. The Americans around me didn't understand what it was and were wandering around aimlessly, but as an Israeli you understand."
Rabbi Yossi Zaklos of Chabad of Boston, who was at the race, said: "I waited at the finish, when I suddenly heard an explosion. I saw people running hysterically in immense fear." Zaklos said it reminded him of terrorist attacks in Israel. "We aren't taking any chances and are augmenting our security," he said, "particularly around Jewish institutions."
Meanwhile, a group of Israeli runners was organizing a commemoration run in Israel. The 5-kilometer (3-mile) run will depart from the Tel Aviv port on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. It will start at the Max Brenner restaurant at the port and continue to Charles Clore Park and back.