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Grueling Desert Biking in Israel: Breaking out of the Comfort Zone, for a Cause

By Andy Katell “The hill is your friend,” Howie Rodenstein declared as he tried to brace 180 Americans, Australians and Israelis for what was to become the bicycle climb of their lives – 4,100 feet up from the lowest point on earth. Later, while trudging up yet another massive hill en route from the Dead Sea to Eilat, I learned that what Howie, a founder of the annual Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, probably really meant was that the downhill is your friend. (more…)





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Daniel C – From Jerusalem to Eilat, The 2007 Arava/Hazon Israel Ride

Practicality flooded my realm today. Waking to find forty others gathered together for prayers overlooking Jerusalem, in its waking hours with its cars and lights, hitting 50 mph on the speedometer along the 20 mile downhill stretch outside of the ancient city, suffering the ogre belches of 18-wheeler’s exhaust pipes and trekking a good 50 miles under the desert’s 100 degree sun. We had a police motorcade. There was a point when our cop friends slowed down traffic enough (around 30 mph) for me to have a slight chance to catch up to the cars. I did. Three cheers! (more…)





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IsraelRide 2007 for Environmentalism and Peace: Jeff Borkan – Sharon, Massachusetts

Pushing the limits: wondering how and if my leg muscles will keep the spindly wheels turning, as another of the countless hills is attempted, heat rolls over my back, and the desert spreads out before me in a vista of earth tones and sky.  A major part of the theme of the ride was to further appreciate Israeli desert ecology as one pedals through it.  There is also the conscious effort to promote thinking more broadly than just the ecology of Israel, as “the environment knows no national borders”.  The 6 day trek of 178 riders took each of us beyond our individual capacities, created community, raised both ecological awareness and nearly $1m for worthy environmental causes, and left (except for the flights to the country), a fairly small carbon footprint. (more…)





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Tu B’Shvat 2007

Friday, February 3, 2007 / 14 Shevat 5767 Dear All, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued a report which is front page news in nearly every paper in the world today. The Guardian’s summary is typical: The report predicts a rise of between 18 cm and 58 cm in sea levels by the end of this century, a figure that could increase by as much as 20cm if the recent melting of polar ice sheets continues. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the summary said. (more…)





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Shabbat Hazon 2006

Friday July 28th 2006 / 3 Av 5766 Dear All, This Shabbat is Shabbat Hazon, which you would think would be the sort of time I ought to write something to our list. But then one recalls that Shabbat Hazon is not about “hazon” – vision – in a positive and inspirational sense (which is largely why Hazon is called Hazon) but rather about a prophecy of destruction and despoliation, especially in Israel. And then I think: well, perhaps I should indeed write something… (more…)





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Jewish Week – “Retreat and Advance”

Retreat And Advance Debra Nussbaum Cohen – Staff Writer May 5, 2006 Next Labor Day weekend, Rabbis Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz will carefully remove the Torah scroll from its home at Elat Chayyim, the Jewish retreat center they founded 16 years ago, and carry it on the first leg of the journey to its new home. Then they’ll hand it off to pairs of friends who will take turns walking the holy scroll 62 miles, to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Removing the Torah will be the final act by Elat Chayyim’s leaders before they close the retreat center’s doors, bringing to an end a grand experiment in the spiritual renewal of Judaism. People with every kind of Jewish background went to Elat Chayyim to learn and practice meditation, experiment with neo-chasidic practices like chanting and ecstatic movement, and bring an environmentally sensitive consciousness to every act. The problem was that its ramshackle site was too uncomfortably funky for all but the most committed, and its creators and leaders were focused more on teaching than on finances. (more…)





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An Amazing Way to Arrive

Jerusalem Yom Ha’atsma’ut / Israel Independence Day – 20th day of the omer 5766 Wednesday May 3rd 2006 Here’s how I arrived in Israel yesterday – in the waning afternoon hours of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, and just ahead of Yom Ha’atsma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, last night and today. I walked through customs at Ben Gurion airport at 4.30pm. Yigal Deutscher met me at the airport; less than half an hour later I was walking around Chava v’Adam, visiting his new Shorashim project. I’ll explain what that is in a minute and why it was so amazing, but first a word about Yigal. (more…)





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Pushing ourselves to be the best we can be

Nigel Savage Published in The New Jersey Jewish News’ segment, The Next Big Think March 16, 2006 I love the famous line from Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” It’s in that spirit that I want to address this topic. This is more about what might be than about what is. Here are three things that already exist within Jewish life — but which I’d like to see grow dramatically in the next five years. (more…)





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New strategies for an ancient tradition

At the emotional high point of one of the central prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we say “teshuva, tefilla and tzedakah avert the evil decree.” Ahead of the prayer marathons of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wanted to write something about tefilla, prayer, the second of these three things. It is in many ways the least accessible of the three. Teshuva – returning to our best selves – segues easily into a contemporary neo-therapeutic perspective. We may struggle to improve ourselves, but the desirability of doing so seems clear. (more…)





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2005 New York Ride Keynote Address

 by Ariana Silverman This summer, my uncle, a middle-aged working father of three, volunteered to be a Little League Umpire. As many of you know, the difficulty of this particular job is not the physical exertion, or the danger of being confronted by a player, or even that there are that many pitches that are too close-to-call, but having to face the genuine wrath of a parent who feels that his or her child, or even his or her child’s team, has been wronged. During one particularly heated game, my uncle’s calls were repeatedly followed by yelling from an offended mother in the stands. Trying to keep his cool, when, in the middle of the forth inning, she asked for the count, he obligingly held up his hands . My uncle was stunned by her temporary silence, and then it came: “Ump, you’re gonna hafta yell-out the count-I don’t have my glasses on!” Tonight I invite you to join me in a conversation about seeing. Our Torah portion this Shabbat begins with the command to see: Re’eh. Re’eh Anochi Notein L’ifneicheim HaYom Bracha U’klalah. See, this day I set before you blessing and curse (Deuteronomy 11:26). This theme is not […]





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