Eat, Ride, Love – How It All Connects

Rabbi Marc Soloway recently completed the 300 mile bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat as a participant in the 2010 Arava Institute & Hazon Israel Ride this past October. This year, he also serves as co-chair of the 2010 Hazon Food Conference West in December. He explains how they are both part of a greater movement and how that movement ties to our community.

The exhilaration of riding 300 miles on a bike through the dramatically changing landscape of Israel, a region so full of depth, beauty, history, complexity and instability, has been one of the richest and most challenging experiences of my life. I have recently completed my second Hazon-Arava Israel Ride and the impact of this great adventure continues to stir me in so many ways. Beyond the physical demand and sense of achievement that comes with pedaling an average of 60 miles a day for five days, there is such a sense of awe and elation to being a participant in this tremendous partnership between two such inspirational institutions – Hazon and The Arava Institute. The magnificently managed ride is run by a combination of Hazon’s staff, and students, alumni and faculty from the Arava Institute. The crew is a vibrant and passionate community of people from very different backgrounds, including Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans and others, committed to deep values of sustainability, diversity peace-building. The dynamic energy and great warmth of this very cool crew is powerfully motivating for the riders, especially as we reach the top of a hard hill or a welcome rest stop!

The Arava Institute is the principle recipient of our fundraising efforts and the core mission of this school of environmental studies, is that nature knows no borders. Religion, culture, politics and history can divide and separate, while a genuine commitment to environmental sustainability can heal and unite, as we all breathe the same air, drink the same water and share food supplies. This message is especially poignant in the fragile Geo-political climate of the Middle East, but is really about all of us everywhere.

We can achieve so much more through community and partnership than by defiantly and selfishly carving out our own paths in the world as individuals, communities and countries. This lies at the heart of Hazon’s growth, success and impact and pervades all of its many local and global projects that bring us closer to a healthier and more sustainable world.

As well as being part of an expanding group of Israel Ride alumni, I also have the privilege of serving as co-chair of Hazon’s upcoming Food Conference West in December. Riding a bike through the hot Israeli desert, helping to establish a Jewish CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Boulder, Colorado and helping to lead an event bringing together educators, activists and practitioners in the growing new Jewish Food Movement this winter in Northern California, may all seem like different worlds, but they are actually all part of the big picture of Hazon’s work and its impact on me personally and on the world. New paradigms of community are emerging across denominations and other boundaries that help us all see the profound truth of our need to work together in order to survive.

The ride was, for me, part of a whole month in Israel during which time I got to see and participate in a whole range of co-existence and partnership projects. It is ten years since I lived in Jerusalem, and it was so inspiring to see the emergence of over a dozen community gardens around the city on this trip, as an indication of positive, local initiatives. I also got to experience and witness some of the work being done, during such politically tense times, in areas of peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs.

The cycle of Torah readings which have punctuated the last few weeks with their holy rhythm, have told those old stories of Isaac and Ishmael and now of Jacob and Esau, brothers who have become enemies. Ishmael is the seed of the Muslim world and Esau of Christianity, according to the rabbis of the Talmud. My rich, fulfilling and challenging few weeks in Israel allowed me the privilege of unexpected and powerful encounters with descendants of all of Abraham’s children, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and my overwhelming sense is of what we share rather than what divides us, especially when it comes to the environment and our need to work together. In this week’s parshah, Vayishlach, we see a reconciliation between Jacob and Esau who seemed so condemned to hatred, reminding us of the great need to work through differences. The inspiring and empowering work of the Arava Institute and Hazon invite us to be part of a shared vision of survival and sustainability through partnerships that help us transcend our differences and plant new seeds of hope and the courage to dream of a healthier future, together.

Marc is a native of London, England, where he used to be an actor and is now a rabbi in Boulder, Colorado. He is a former co-chair of Limmud in the UK as well as a founder of Limmud Colorado. Marc helped to bring Hazon CSA to Boulder and is co-chair of the Hazon Food Conference West. He loves to eat, to bike and to ski.

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