By Robert Rosenbaum
As I prepare for my 4th Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, I’d like to share my experiences and what drives me to return and support these essential organizations.
I heard about the bike ride from my brother-in-law, Noel Eisenstat, who participated back in 2008. His stories from the ride pushed me to learn more about these organizations’ goals.
I have been a long time supporter of Israel, but until 2009 it had been from afar. I had not been back to Israel since 1977, when I was an Ulpon volunteer on Kibbutz Maagan Michael. Back in the 70s fast transportation was a bus ride along the coastal highway. After 9 months in Israel, I had the routes to Haifa and Tel Aviv memorized. So you can imagine my reaction when I saw “real” highways- the equivalent of our interstate roads- including all of the traffic J
So here I was, back in Israel after 32 years, trying to get re-oriented to the geography and the culture. The roads were a bit different, but what came back very quickly was the feeling of acceptance by the people around me. Yes – Israelis have an opinion on everything, but that is what draws me in. It allows you to become part of the “dialog”, even as a visitor.
That dialog is what brings me back to the importance of the Arava Institute. The ability to create and support conversation and constructive dissent among Jews, Arabs and Palestinians is a key component to their success. This collaborative environment enables real research and learning to occur- producing solutions to benefit everyone.
During the bike ride you will meet these fine alumni and students from the Arava. They are your Crew/guides for a safe ride. Setting up our oasis stops, just when you need it. Quickly responding to the flat tires. Transporting our luggage to our next lodging stop. Encouraging us up the tough hills with drum beats and singing. Most important- take the time to have a conversation with the Arava folks. I guarantee you will come away with a deeper understanding of the Institute’s purpose.
Please let me offer some other tips in your preparation for the ride. Don’t feel pressured into selecting a particular ride group. Choose what feels comfortable for you. You will have the opportunity to develop friendships throughout the ride. You can move between ride groups on any given day. Let’s say you would like to join one of the daily tours. Then Shomrim would be your group for that day. Tzofim is targeted for those that want to ride the full distance each day. We typically average between 13 – 15 mph, but it’s a journey, not a race !! Chalutzim are for riders who want to push it to the next level. They will typically ride at a faster pace and add some extra miles to each day’s ride. Any time you need a rest- there will always be an air-conditioned coach bus you may jump on. Open your eyes- you will be seeing Israel by the seat of your pants. Not buzzing by in a tour bus, but at your pace. Notice the unique landscape and the changes as we move from the coastal plains to the Negev.
No matter which group you choose – Do train regularly. I alternate between flat roads and hills. We will have rolling hills throughout the ride. Of course some “stinker” hills are included, but once you reach the top there is typically a nice descent .Try to build up to the maximum you will be riding each day. Shomrim is typically riding half a day- 30 miles per day. Tzofim riders will put in an average of 55 miles per day. The Chalutzim group will average 70 miles per day.
There is always the question of what to pack. It really is your personal choice for many items. You have the option to bring your bike or rent one. I choose to rent a road bike for convenience, saving costs (Delta is my main option from Atlanta and they charge $300 each way for a bike). I do bring my seat and peddles. The rentals are high quality bikes. Whether you bring your bike or rent one, the Crew is super with the support of all bikes. Bring your helmet, 2 water bottles (a Camelbak is also a nice choice), good riding shoes and socks, sunglasses, butt butter, riding clothes for 3 days (you can wash in the hotels and guest houses).
- Buddy up with others during the ride. You will create some great friendships and ensure a safe experience
- Try to arrive in Israel at least 48 hours prior to the start of the ride. It will help you adjust to the time change. You can also sight see a bit.
- Take energy bars and drinks- unless you have a specific preference the ride Crew provides a selection of dried fruit, energy bars, powder for energy drink, water, etc.
- Sunscreen- put some on during every stop. The Crew provides it.
I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones in October.
This year in Yerushalayim !!