View of the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock
Tomorrow is Day 1 of Israel Ride 2013. Does it say anything that I am starting today’s blog with a reference to tomorrow’s ride? We are so ready to get this show on the road. We have our alarm clock set for 5:15 so we can get into our bike outfits, have breakfast and get onto the bus which will take our “Chalutzim” group out of Jerusalem where our 63 mile trek to Ashkelon begins.
But, getting back to today…
Our hotel here in Jerusalem is like a little slice of the United Nations. Keeping in mind that Jerusalem is the capital to the majority of the world’s most important religions, the diversity of the people who are here is something to behold. Breakfast is served buffet style with multiple stations featuring a broad range of foods to select from. Literally hundreds of people are buzzing around, trying to get food onto their plates, coffee into their cups, and finish eating in time to get onto their respective tour bus waiting in from of the hotel.
Apparently, the first stop for all tours is the Mount of Olives. Site of one of Israel’s most famous cemeteries, reaching the site requires mega-wide tour buses to pass within inches of each other via the narrow streets through Jerusalem’s Arab community. Buses unload at the top of the road where throngs of tourists walk along a minimal sidewalk to catch which is undeniably one of the most stunning views of The Old City. Our tour guide gave us a 10-minute encapsulation of the history of the world, from King David to the 7-Day War of 1967. This truly put everything into perspective for us.
Our next stop was The Old City, which we accessed through the Jaffa Gate. We took a whirlwind walking trip through the walled city, learning along the way, and winding up at the Western Wall where we had the chance to join together in personal prayer with visitors from all over the world, each practicing a different religion, but all coming together at this holiest of historic landmarks.
We returned to our hotel for an outdoor lunch near our hotel which consisted of a variety of rolled up “sandwiches”, veggies, dips and deserts. We are definitely enjoying the wonderful menus and quality of food that our hosts, The Arava Institute and Hazon, are providing.
Beth and I followed lunch with a four-mile ride on our bikes around the hotel’s neighborhood. Traffic was horrible and we couldn’t wait to get back to the relative sanity of our hotel. Jerusalem is not a bike friendly city. Let’s leave it at that.
The balance of the afternoon consisted of our orientation and safety overview. A ton of information, all of which should serve us well over the next week on the bike.
We are expected to reach Ashkelon, a Mediterranean seaside town, by 3 pm tomorrow. Beth and I are doing the longest of the three rides tomorrow since it includes an additional 7 mile climb at the beginning of the day which should allow us to test our mountain trained legs right away.
Thanks for following us and for your posts on Facebook during the day. It is so great to hear from everyone while we are so far away from home.
For those of you who are into Twitter, you can follow the posts of various participants (and make posts of your own) using the hashtag #israelride.
Love and Peace,
Beth and Jon
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