Reflections on the first day of riding, from Rabbi Bill Rudolph of Bethesda Maryland
Day 1: Jerusalem to Ashkelon
We made it safely to the Mediterranean. It was a beautiful ride. I made the right choice of distance. The only problem was the hill coming out of Jerusalem. I thought I would become one of those tank carcasses on the roadside from the War of Independence. After a few miles of climbing, I had to stop to catch my breath. (Note that most of my group had stopped long before.) I was a sorry sight, draped over the handlebars, gasping for air. I caught my breath and started up the hill again. Around the first turn, not even fifty yards from my stopping place, was the top of the hill and a long beautiful downhill. Sometimes in life we stop just a little too soon and miss out on more than beautiful downhills. I hope you haven’t experienced that.
On the positive side, Israeli truck and car drivers were surprisingly kind to us as we frequently encroached on their turf. What’s with that?
Today might be called Philistine Day. Early on we went by the open field where the young king-to-be David took out his slingshot and killed the Philistine giant Goliath.
We went through Gath and are spending the overnight in Ashkelon. Together they are two of the five Philistine cities – the others are Gaza Ekron and Ashdod – that were extant and flourishing when the motley crew of freed Israelite slaves entered the Promised Land. Very quickly our ancestors figured out that they would be wise to steer clear of the Philistines, who had mastered iron ( this was Iron Age I) and were able to produce weapons for which the Israelites had no answer. The Goliath story was scarcely repeated until eventually the Israelite monarchy led by David and Solomon was strong enough to conquer anyone in its path.
Gath is a sleepy little town. Ashkelon is quite an attractive city that is growing despite the occasional rocket from the most southerly of the five cities, Gaza. Israeli control of Gaza and its environs was given up for a variety of reasons some years back; it represents now one of the significant political and security problems that Israel ( and now Egypt) faces. But on a beautiful fall day, only an Air Force jet streaking towards Gaza and riders yelling “car back” break the spell of tranquility.
Tomorrow is the longest day of riding. Up to 93 miles and a lot of elevation. I hope to report in on the day’s ride and some narrative about co- sponsor Hazon tomorrow evening.
Best, Bill Rudolph