About the Ride
The Arava Institute’s Israel Ride is the premier cycling experience in Israel. The Israel Ride connects people to Israel’s land and culture, fosters long lasting friendships, and supports an environmentally sustainable, secure, and peaceful Middle East.
The ride includes five glorious days of biking, with route options for recreational riders and experienced cyclists. All routes are fully supported with plentiful local food, wonderful crew and mechanics, and great overnight locations. We also offer Chaverim, an option for friends who would like to explore Israel through the environmental peacebuilding lens but are not bicyclists. The week-long experience includes orientation, five cycling days, and a day off over Saturday (Shabbat) to gather and rest. Each cycling day of the Israel Ride offers new cycling opportunities and challenges, although the basic flow of each day is the same. There is something for everyone on the Israel Ride – for those new to Israel or seasoned travelers, for those coming on their own, with families, or part of local teams, and for riders of all ages. Learn about the ecological challenges in the region as you explore the Negev desert, and support the work of The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the premier environmental academic and research institute in the region . Participants on the Israel Ride are mostly from the United States, as well as England, Canada, Israel, and Australia. There are riders of all ages (including those celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah), religious backgrounds, and cycling abilities.
Participants on Chaverim will visit ecological sites along the Ride route each day, exploring Israel through the environmental lens, meeting with researchers and activists who work with the Arava Institute and engaged in regional sustainability efforts. Chaverim participants travel with the bike ride participants, beginning and ending each day together.
The first Israel Ride was in 2003. It was founded by the Arava Institute and Adamah (formally known as Hazon), a US-based Jewish environmental organization, to show solidarity with Israel at a very difficult time, and to provide new avenues for supporting their critical environmental programs. In May 2003, the first Israel Ride attracted 34 riders and collected over $50,000. We have ridden every year from 2003 to 2019, pausing in-person riding due to the pandemic, and renewed the Ride in 2022. Over 1,800 Ride Alumni have raised over $9 million to support Adamah and the Arava Institute. Beginning in 2023, the Arava Institute is the sole Israel Ride beneficiary. In 2024 the Arava Institute announced the creation of the Virtual Ride, for alumni who have previously ridden in Israel, or for new riders wishing to support the Arava Institute, who for any reason, cannot commit to joining the physical ride.
The Virtual Ride History
The first Virtual Israel Ride was born out of necessity during the COVID pandemic. It was successful in sustaining the community of riders who believe in the mission of the Arava Institute and contributed to the Institute’s critical fundraising needs. This led to the creation of the Virtual Ride in 2024 as an ongoing partner to the physical Israel Ride.
The Israel Ride supports The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is the premier environmental academic and research program in the Middle East, preparing future Arab, Jewish, and international environmental leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges. Through its activities, the Arava Institute encourages, fosters, and supports the advancement of environmental cooperation between Israel and its neighbors. Learn more.
Past Partner and Beneficiary
From 2003-2022, The Israel Ride also raised funds for Adamah, formally known as Hazon. Adamah is leading a transformative movement weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable world for all. While Adamah maintains a commitment to Israel, and hopes to partner with the Arava Institute in other ways, the Israel Ride is no longer a focus of Adamah’s ongoing efforts to promote sustainability within the Jewish community.
Participants pay a registration fee and commit to a minimum fundraising level. We offer incentives to those who raise above their fundraising minimum. Participants cover their own transportation expenses to fly to and from Israel. The Ride covers all costs in Israel including hotels, food, and ride support from Tuesday lunch in Jerusalem through Monday lunch in Eilat. We also provide a series of fundraising tools to all participants, including a personalized donor website (the participant center) and information about both organizations. Learn more.
Founder & Chairman, Israel Ride
Howie Rodenstein is an avid Zionist and cyclist. Howie founded the Ride in 2002, to show solidarity with Israel at a very difficult time and to raise money for two very special organizations that make a real difference in the world. He has chaired and participated in the Ride every year – and considers himself lucky to have met so many incredible people along the way. Howie is also a board member of Hazon, the Friends of the Arava Institute, and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Howie grew up in Young Judaea, earned his MBA from Harvard Business school, and has lived in Israel for over seven years at various times from ages 18 – 42. He has also been active in his local Jewish community. He is married with 2 children, of whom he is exceedingly proud.
VICE CHAIR, ISRAEL RIDE
Sharon Cohen joined the ride as a rider in 2014, the year after her daughter studied at the Institute, and has been on every ride since. This past year she was asked to join the Ride Committee as well as the marketing committee. In her daily life Sharon is a Shoe entrepreneur owning 5 stores in Western MA, North Central CT and the Albany NY area. She is supported by her husband Eric and two daughters.
Vice Chair, Israel Ride
David Eisenberg has been Vice Chair of the Israel Ride since 2012 and Captain of Team JNF on the Israel Ride since 2005. His primary responsibility is the lay leadership of the Israel Ride’s recruiting and growth strategy. David is on the Boards of the Friends of the Arava Institute (FAI) and JNF New England. He is a past Board member of Temple Aliyah of Needham, MA and the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston. In addition to the Israel Ride, David is Captain of Team ASPS (Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma) on the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) and an annual participant in Cycle for Survival. David is a graduate of Beloit College and Harvard Business School. He and his wife, Fran Caplan, are the proud parents of Adam, Benji, Sara, and Josh.
Israel Ride Alumnus and Co-Chairman, The Virtual Israel Ride
Lester Blumberg has been on the physical Israel Ride 6 times since 2010. He has become a passionate supporter of the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies and believes firmly in its motto that Nature Knows No Boundaries. Together with the Institute’s groundbreaking environmental research and innovations, Lester draws inspiration from the Institute’s peacemaking mission and its commitment to dialogue, problem-solving and cross-border initiatives among the peoples of Middle East as the key to fostering trust and building pathways to peace in that troubled region. Lester is retired after a long career in public service as an attorney and General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. He lives with his wife in Lexington, Massachusetts and spends as much time as possible visiting his children and grandchildren, who live too far away.
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ISRAEL RIDE ALUMNUS AND CO-CHAIRMAN, THE VIRTUAL ISRAEL RIDE
Andrew Fischer was one of the forty hardy pioneers who rode on the first Arava Ride. He has done the ride five times since, including several times with his son, Teddy, who lives in Rishon leTzion and once virtually, with his cohort David Schreiber, in order to continue raising money for The Arava Institute when covid prevented him from doing the ride in Israel. Andrew practiced law for forty years, primarily representing bicyclists. Now semi-retired, he only does pro-bono work, representing bicycle advocacy groups supporting bike paths and rail trails, and representing climate activists. Andrew strongly believes in the Arava motto "nature knows no borders” and supports the work of the Arava Institute because peace will only come when Israelis and Palestinians learn to accept each other’s claim to the land by working together to protect it, as The Arava Institute enables us to do.
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Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed
Executive Director, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
Prior to his appointment as ED, Tareq Abu Hamed served as the Arava Institute’s Academic Director as well as the Director of the Institute’s Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC). In 2013 he became the Israeli Ministry of Science’s Deputy Chief Scientist, and later the Acting Chief Scientist, the highest ranking Palestinian in the Israeli government at that time. Dr. Abu Hamed holds a Bachelor and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from Gazi University (Turkey), and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Ankara University (Turkey). He has completed two terms of postdoctoral research, one at the Environmental Science and Energy Research Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), and the second at the University of Minnesota’s Mechanical Engineering Department Solar Energy Lab. He also holds a Masters in Public Policy from Hebrew University. He lives in East Jerusalem with his wife and five children.
Avigail Ben Yohanan
Israel Ride Director
Avigail Ben Yohanan comes from the world of informal education and logistics, and has a Masters Degree in environmental geography. A tenth-generation Jerusalemite, Avigail now lives on Kibbutz Ketura with her husband and daughters. She is loving the craziness of working on the Israel Ride and looks forward to meeting all the Riders who make it happen!
Israel Ride Crew Leader
Lindsey Zemler is originally from Boulder, Colorado, and has been involved with Arava Institute since 2010, in various roles on campus, on the bike ride and in the alumni community. Lindsey has an M.Sc. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management and has worked in sustainability education, community project management, and environmental resource management. She has lived (and worked on environmental topics) in Hungary, Sweden, Greece, Israel, Colorado and Cape Cod.
Israel Ride Manager
Elana Eyal is the Israel Ride Manager, staffing the Ride. Elana is very connected to Israel, where she lived for eight years after graduating from Tel Aviv University. Her background is in environmental studies and marketing. Today, she is proud to be a breathwork facilitator, frequent citi-bike rider, avid world traveler, and lover of all things outdoors.
Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Arava Institute
Miriam S. May most recently served as the Director of Institutional Advancement at Harvard Hillel. Previously she served as the founding Managing Director of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and as Executive Director of the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Massachusetts. Previously, she lived in New York City and was a Vice President at Citibank. Miriam has an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Labor Relations/Organizational Behavior from Cornell University. She is married to Shaye Cohen and they have four children.
Chief Development Officer, Friends of the Arava Institute
Rachel Kalikow comes to the Friends of the Arava Institute with over 20 years of experience in development and community outreach. Most recently, she spent nearly seven years as the Director of Community Outreach at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA. She has held development roles for Foundation for Jewish Culture, Jewish Women’s Archive, Facing History and Ourselves, and the New Israel Fund. After supporting friends who have participated in the Israel Ride, Rachel is excited to join the Israel Ride staff team and see the Ride firsthand!
The Israel Ride is a fully supported event. We provide a full support-and-gear (SAG) service on the road.
In addition to our staff, each of our three riding groups has its own mechanics, pace cars, sweep bus, medical personnel, and photographers. Crew teams help with rest stops and riding. Lead riders pace (in front) and sweep (in back) each group as well as provide general bicycle support. Tour guides accompany each group to provide education at rest stops.
The majority of the crew are Arava Institute alumni. They are students and professionals from Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and around the world who take a break from their lives, just like you, to enjoy the experience of being on the Israel Ride.