Meet the marathon man running off the heartache of October 7

Naftali Levene has found that running helps his wellbeing


Naftali Levene running the Jerusalem half marathon

A British yeshivah student studying in Israel is returning home to run the London Marathon on Sunday as part of his way of coping with the emotional strain of October 7.

Naftali Levene, 19, first took up the hobby in lockdown. Remembering the positive effect it had had on his sense of wellbeing, it was natural to turn to running once again in the aftermath of the Hamas atrocities.

“At times, we’ve only had 45 seconds to get into a bomb shelter, as we are relatively close to the border,” the north Londoner said.

“Luckily, we haven’t had a siren in months, but there were times we were eating and studying in there.”

Jogging around his yeshivah grounds helped Naftali manage his feelings of helplessness following the worst terror attack the country had ever seen, he added.

“It is a mixed yeshivah in terms of where we are all from, so all the Israelis were called up to the army and the rest of us were left feeling a bit helpless.

“They were putting their lives on the line. It was really inspiring, and I felt like I wanted to do something.”

Naftali has been training alongside a friend in the Israeli countryside near his yeshivah and recently took part in a half marathon in Jerusalem. “It was good practice,” he told the JC.

“I think running is unique in that anything is possible. I listen to a podcast or music.”

Sunday’s race will be his first marathon and he is running to raise £2,500 for UK-based charity Kisharon Langdon, which offers education and support for autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

He said: “I have found running really helps my wellbeing, even when I could only run round a 1km circuit to stay close to shelters after October 7.”

Choosing to run for Kisharon Langdon was a natural choice.“Now I’m hoping to use my running to help others too. I have seen first-hand the incredible work they do for children and adults in my own community,” Naftali said.

“It is inspiring to see how they empower people I know to fulfil their ambitions and dreams”.

Other Jewish charities that will be represented by runners competing in Sunday’s marathon include Jewish Care, Jami, Chai Cancer Care, Norwood and Camp Simcha.

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