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Biking for the Environment in the Negev Desert

12 December, 201112 December, 2011 0 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized


I just participated on the Arava/Hazon Israel Bike ride that lasted for one week.  We started our ride from  outside of Jerusalem in, Neve Shalom, and headed south through the Negev desert down to Eilat in the south of the country on the Red Sea.  The week long adventure was life changing for many reasons.


The ride was an outstanding experience for many reasons.  First, the group of riders that participated (31 out of 81 were repeaters) were bright professionals, so warm and nice, committed, fun, supportive, encouraging and very humorous.  Never before have I met a group of people that do something together for an extended amount of time and don't complain.  The age span was from 13 to70 years old.  There were 4 Israelis and 77 Americans from all over the United States.  There were couples, siblings, parent/child, friends and lots of individuals. The ability level of the riders varied greatly. The group was one aspect that made the trip so very special and inspiring.


Secondly, there were about 25 people that took care of the planning, logistics, and work required to get done throughout the trip so that the riders could have a first class, fully  supported bike trip.  Those 25 people worked for an entire year on every single detail.  There wasn't anything that wasn't taken care of with the utmost care.  I think the only thing that wasn't done for us, was sweeping the shoulders of the roads.  The crew responsible for all the details, organization and work of the trip was made up of paid professionals from the Arava Institute and Hazon organization and also the alumni students from the Arava Institute.  The alumni were Jordanians comprised of Bedouins,  Muslims, and Palestinians as well as Palestinians from the West Bank or East Jerusalem as well as Jewish Israelis.


Hazon Bike ride

Photo courtesy: Hazon Israel Ride, Roni Biller & Noa Guez  Participants and staff working together with local Bedouins


Next, the organizations, Hazon and the Arava Institute, are two such wonderful non-profits that are doing really important and interesting work.  The primary beneficiary of the Israel Ride is the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.  The Institute is working to confront the serious environmental challenges in Israel, by creating a leadership cadre of environmentalists, through important research, and through public involvement.  The Arava Institute draws students from across the Middle East, encouraging environmental cooperation between peoples, and working towards peace and sustainable development on a regional and global scale.  It was a pleasure to be fundraising for their causes. To learn much more about the work of the Arava Institute, or about the environmental movement in Israel, check out http//www.arava.org


The second beneficiary of the Israel Ride is Hazon, one of the most innovative organizations in the American Jewish community and now the largest Jewish environmental organization in the United States.  The work "Hazon" means vision.  They create healthy and sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.  Through the Jewish environmental Bike Rides, the Community-Supported Agriculture projects, the conference on Jews, Food and Contemporary Life, and other cutting edge programs, Hazon brings people together, builds community, and promotes sustainability and vibrant Jewish life.  You can learn more at www.hazon.org


Another highlight of the trip was spending time with the students and alumni of the Arava Institute.  After living in Israel for 19 years, only now on this ride, did I spend real time and share experiences with Palestinians, Jordanians and Bedouins.  Spending time with our neighbors, discussing issues, laughing, dancing, eating and cycling together broke down stereotypes and boundaries.  Learning how the Arava Institute recruits it's students was eye opening.  The Institute places an ad in Arabic in all the Arab countries in the Middle East offering a full scholarship to study environmental issues of the Middle East at the Arava Institue.  Only giving a phone number to call to make further inquiry.  When a meeting has been established, only then does the Arava representative divulge that the institute is in Israel.  I heard several accounts of how difficult it was for them, the interested student, to even contemplate going to Israel to study much less the reactions of their families and communities.  That's what this bike ride is all about.


Simply enjoying Israel's natural beauty was certainly a plus on this ride.  The varied topography and vegetation of our small country is interesting.  The solitude and vastness of the Negev desert is spellbinding.  The pride I felt in coming upon beautiful, interesting communities and productive oases in the desert was wonderful.


Hazon Bike ride

Photo Courtesy: Hazon Israel Ride 2011


The perseverence and focus it took to complete the ride was beyond any other physical challenge I've encountered and meeting those challenges and completing the ride was incredibly rewarding.  I pedaled the entire 460 k.  The physical demands of cycling, conquering fears, really listening to people with different opinions, spending so much time in my own quiet space, away from family and friends, were difficult at times yet enormously satisfying. 


There were three different daily biking group levels that you could choose to cycle in.  You could either ride 35, 55 or 70 miles a day depending on your selected group. There were rest stops every 10 to 15 miles with food, drink, as well as mechanics to care for the bikes, stretching time and comradery.  Various tours led by a licensed tour guide were offered at the many rest stops along the way which provided an interesting educational aspect to the program deepening our knowledge about the land, culture and heritage.  The food throughout the entire trip was healthy, delicious and plentiful.  In so many ways the ride and everything it encompassed was truly the fulfillment of a life's dream.


If you would like to make a donation to the Hazon/Arava Institute you still may until December 31st, 2011.  They need your support.


I hope that some of you will consider going on this bike ride for yourself in the near future.  This is an annual trip.  It is life changing.


To view more photos click here.


Thank you,



TagsTags: biking negev arava hazon 


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