The Ride 2007

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IMG_3499.JPG, originally uploaded by swimfast.

“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like…”

*picture: We are in the Jordan Vally north of the dead sea. We rode on a road that runs along the Jordan River. To the right were the mountains of Jordan, and to the left the Judean Mountains of Isreal. *

My journey has begun. After flying into Tel Aviv and having a wonderful Shabbat in Jerusalem, we departed for Haifa on our ofanaiim (bikes). Donning red jerseys and bike shorts, fifty-five proud Progressive Jews rode our of HUC’s campus in Jersualem and headed for the dead sea.

A quick geography lesson: Jerusalem is about 2500 feet above sea level and the dead sea, being the lowest place on earth is 1300 feet below sea level. We spent the entire riding downhill and admiring the scenery as it went from gree trees to sand and rock. We finally arrived at the dead sea, got a tour of Qumran (where the dead sea scrolls were found), and crashed for the night on a kibbutz. (more on the dead sea in another post – an ecological emergency…)

Day 2:
We left the kibbutz and began our long road trip to Beit She’an. As we did most of our riding in the valley, the picture on the left provides a good idea of what we saw most of the time. It was a nice warm day and very beautiful. Another geography note (political in nature): We were riding along the border with Jordan, which is clearly in the West Bank. While we only rode through one, small, Palestinian village and had a police escort, at no time did we feel endangered. It was a very interesting choice for the Progressive movement to choose this route as they are pro-disengagement. I’m sure that throughout my year in Israel I will re-examine my views on the territories and the incredible politics that engulf this region.

Day 3:
Unfortunately the trails were too muddy, so instead we rode along the rode to Tiberius which is nestled in a valley on the shores of the Kineret (sea of Galilee). The army let us ride along the border patrol rode which meant that for some time there were three fences surrounding us with massive amounts of barbed wire (see the pictures on flickr for more). We arrived in Tiberius quite early, and so we took some time to relax in the Turkish Baths. These are naturally heated pools of mineral water created by the movement of the tectonic plates below the sea. We finished the day at a fantastic meat restaurant which included an unusual show. Picture a very large, permanent tent as the restuarant, which huge windows as the walls providing a panoramic view of the Kineret. After dinner, the lights dimmed, and a boat began backing towards us. On either side of the boat were two men with red flares. All the while someone is singing a song welcoming us to Israael. It was quite the experience.

Day 4: We finally left the road to begin our ascent out of the Jordan Vally. It was an amazing day filled with some tough climbs (500 meters total) and incredible views. We ended the day at a beautiful kibbutz in the Galilee(the north) and were treated to dinner at a fully organic restaurant.

Day 5:
Although we only biked 30km, we ascended another 500m and therefore this was definatly the toughest day. We began off-road with quite a few water crossings that were fun, challenging, and helped to cool off. We stopped for breakfast halfway to Haifa at a restaurant that is a converted monestary in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful setting in the middle of trees and fields and the food was incredible. After brunch we returned to the road and began our ascent up Mt. Carmel in Haifa. Riding at noon up a steep mountain presented a challenge that left everybody feeling accomplished as we reached the top. We gathered as a group and rode to Or Chadash (a progressive congregation) where we were greeted with singing and applause. After a wonderful closing ceremony it was time to board the bus to Jerusalem, and begin training for next years ride.

Final thoughts:
While my daily explanation of the ride should give you a taste of what we experienced, it is still very hard to convey the people, the sights, the smells of spring, and the motivation of the group that makes this ride so amazing. We all work hard as a group to finish the bike ride while witnessing a side of Israel that few people ever see. It’s one thing to drive through an area while looking out the window and completely different to ride by a Palestinian family cooking in a open fire outside and say “salaam” (peace in Arabic) and receive the same in response. Biking helps us all to remember to slow down and become one with the road, bumbs, hills, rivers and people.

Thus begins my adventure in Israel.

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