Before we headed out this morning, we took some moments to reflect on the tragic shooting that took place yesterday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Take a look at the video below of the remarks from Nigel Savage, president & CEO of Hazon.

Today we made our way to the Arava Valley, home of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

Chaverim had an off-road jeep tour of Makhtesh Ramon to see the large erosion crater from a completely different perspective. They observed the flora of the region and their unique methods of adapting to the desert. They visited possibly the oldest temple in the world, the Temple of Leopards, dating back some 7,500 years, and traced the move from hunter/gatherer to farmer. Chaverim had the opportunity to join various tours at the Arava Institute.

All riding groups rode half a mile to the edge of the Makhtesh, where we held an optional prayer service and took a group photo (in our 2018 Israel Ride jerseys!) before starting the day.

Shomrim started with a stunning descent into Makhtesh Ramon, and then climbed out the other side. After crossing a desert plateau, they crossed Wadi Faran, one of the largest valleys crossing the Negev Desert, and had a short steep climb out before their final stop for the day. After lunch with the Tzofim at Shizafon, they took a bus to Kibbutz Ketura for the afternoon activities at the Arava Institute.

Tzofim descended into Makhtesh Ramon and spent most of their day on the main north-south road in the center of the Negev desert. After climbing out of the Makhtesh, they crossed the desert plateau, climbed out of the Faran valley, and then had lunch at Shizafon with the Shomrim. After a final descent, an afternoon of activities awaited at Kibbutz Ketura and the Arava Institute.

Chalutzim followed the Tzofim route south, but rode at a faster speed and had lunch further south. They added an out-and-back spur that brought them to Shacharut, a small desert community overlooking the Arava Valley. They retraced their route a little, and ended the day with the descent into the valley itself, joining the other riders at Kibbutz Ketura and the Arava Institute.

Overnight the participants were split among five kibbutz guesthouses located in the Arava Valley: Elifaz, Ketura, Lotan, Neot Smadar, and Yahel.