On the Israel Ride, you have the opportunity to learn about the land from a whole new perspective as you traverse the country on your bicycle. In addition to taking in the breathtaking views, you will be able to learn from a wide range of educators about the history and ecology of the region. We are offering a series of touring and educational opportunities throughout the Ride including en-route education and a full Shomrim (30-mile daily riders) touring itinerary.
You will experience Israel in a unique and exciting new way. Riding through the Judean Hills and Negev Desert offers spectacular scenery and the opportunity to meet new people of many different backgrounds.
Learning about Israel
Multiple tour guides accompany our ride. Both at the evening briefings and at rest stops along the route they provide information about the regions we are cycling through.
The 2014 Israel Ride traverses some breathtaking locations in Israel – we have orientation in Jerusalem, then ride for two days in the highlands of the Negev desert, reaching Makhtesh Ramon and spending Shabbat in Mizpe Ramon (overlooking the Makhtesh). We then continue riding through the Arava Rift Valley, and finally into the Eilat mountains on the way to the Red Sea. Each location has its own look and feel, and cycling through the varied regions provides an excellent opportunity to experience the diversity within Israel.
Our tour guides will also provide brief background on the history of the area. We will be cycling past Biblical landmarks, ancient synagogues, Christian holy sites, Crusader castles, and sites of modern battles. Our guides strive to provide a comprehensive history of the region, up to the modern day political challenges.
Highlights along the route include:
- Day 1: Beit Guvrin National Park, home to beautiful caves, mosaics, and archeological artifacts
- Day 2: Gaza border communities
- Day 3: Sde Boker, the site of Ben Gurion’s tomb; Mamshit and Avdat, ancient Nabatean strongholds atop desert mountains
- Day 4: Makhtesh Ramon, an erosion crater which is a geological wonder; Shittim, an ashram in the heart of the Negev; Neot Smadar, Israel’s only all-organic kibbutz
- Day 5: Israel’s southern borders, with both Jordan and Egypt; Timna, an ancient desert site with the world’s oldest copper mines; The Red Sea
As both partner organizations have an environmental focus, we also have various educators on the ride to inform riders about ecological challenges in the region, as well as recent successes in the field.
- Water usage – Water is of the utmost importance in the desert and throughout the region. We will learn about Israel’s water conservation efforts, recent desalination developments, and how water plays a role in the modern political landscape.
- Energy – Israel is slowly exploring alternative energy sources, but most energy is still fossil-fuel based. While Israel has recently discovered off-shore natural gas deposits, the future of this resource is up for debate. While on Kibbutz Ketura we will see the first solar field in Israel.
- Land Use – Along the coast, Israel is one of the densest countries in the world, while the desert in the south is still open but very inviting for modern development. Land use controversies have arisen over the past years, including one regarding a desert sand dune area just south of Kibbutz Ketura, home of the Arava Institute.
- Forestation – Israel was one of the few countries to end the 20th century with more trees than they had at the start. However, recent forest fires have devastated some of Israel’s national forests, even as Israel continues to explore ways to make forests bloom in a semi-arid climate.
Some evenings we will also have a chance to hear from Arava Institute alumni, who will present on projects they have started following their time at the Institute.
Staff from Hazon will also talk about their work in creating healthier and more sustainable communities – focusing on how we relate to the food we eat, and where that food comes from. Sessions on Shabbat will explore this topic in depth, including how Jewish tradition can inform our food choices.
Each time, the Ride deepens my connection to the Land. There is nothing that compares to riding through the desert.
While the Israel Ride is open to those of all faiths, throughout the week we offer various Jewish prayer options, and come together as a community on Friday night and Saturday to celebrate Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. While all of our ritual activities are optional, we use the time over Shabbat to learn more about the alumni from the Arava Institute and the work of Hazon. With all activities offered, we strive to strike a balance that allows riders to practice as they see fit, but to also experience other facets of Jewish tradition if they choose.
Depending on the make up of the Israel Ride community, we try to have daily prayer both in the morning and the evenings. Usually, we conduct a Shacharit service in the morning or at the first rest stop. In the evenings after the daily briefing we will have Maariv. In general, these services are egalitarian with a traditional liturgy in Hebrew.
If possible, we try to schedule some prayer outdoors, taking advantage of the natural beauty on our route. We also try to have a weekday service that includes music, explanation, and meditation while giving those who prefer a traditional service space as well.
All hotels that we stay at throughout the Ride are kosher under the supervision of the Israeli Rabbinate. All food which is provided by the ride on the road is kosher as well.
The powered energy drink available in Israel which we use on the ride sometimes does not have kosher certification, but we bring some containers from the US which do. Each rest stop will have both types, clearly marked.
After three days of riding, the biking is interrupted by a much needed day of rest for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Shabbat is an integral part of the Israel Ride. Throughout Shabbat there are opportunities to relax, pray, swim, learn about Hazon and the Arava Institute, and to reunite with family who are welcome to join as guests for the weekend.
Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday, which occurs around 4:15 pm. We come together to mark the transition from the work week to the day of rest with candle lighting. The Israel Ride runs an egalitarian service (with mixed seating and participation for men and women), and other options may be available depending on the makeup of the ride community. Following services, we come together for a festive Shabbat Dinner, which includes traditional songs and blessings over wine and bread.
On Saturday morning, we host an intimate Shabbat service, led by many of the riders. There will also be options to explore the area, practice yoga, and more. After services, people connected to Hazon – through participation in events or fellowships – share the Hazon vision in a panel discussion. In the afternoon, the alumni of the Arava Institute discuss their experiences living and learning together. Shabbat closes with Havdalah, a ceremony which we conduct as the sun sets over Makhtesh Ramon.
I really needed the day off this year to allow my body a day to rest and recover from the demands of the first 3 days of riding. Even though I do keep Shabbat, that sort of day of rest that is truly for both body and soul is never experienced on a regular basis.