On the Israel Ride you have the opportunity to learn about Israel from a whole new perspective as you traverse the country on your bicycle. In addition to taking in the breathtaking views, you will hear from a wide range of educators about the history and ecology of the region. We offer a series of tours and programs throughout the Ride, including en-route education and a full Shomrim (30-mile half-day riding with half-day tours).
Multiple tour guides accompany the Ride. They are at the evening briefings, and at rest stops along the route will provide information about the regions we are cycling through.
The Israel Ride traverses some breathtaking locations in Israel – we have orientation in Jerusalem, then ride for two days in the highlands of the Negev desert, reaching Makhtesh Ramon, and spending Shabbat in Mizpe Ramon (overlooking the Makhtesh). We then continue riding through the Arava Rift Valley, and finally into the Eilat mountains on the way to the Red Sea. Each location has its own look and feel, and cycling through the varied regions provides an excellent opportunity to experience the diversity within Israel.
Our tour guides will also provide brief background on the history of the area. We will be cycling past Biblical landmarks, ancient synagogues, Christian holy sites, Crusader castles, and sites of modern battles. Our guides provide a comprehensive history of the region, up to the modern day political challenges.
Some examples of highlights along the route include:
- Day 1: Emek HaEla, where David slew Goliath, and home to many small communities in the foothills of Jerusalem
- Day 2: Gaza border communities
- Day 3: Sde Boker, the site of Ben Gurion’s tomb; Mamshit and Avdat, ancient Nabatean strongholds atop desert mountains
- Day 4: Makhtesh Ramon, an erosion crater which is a geological wonder; Shittim, an ashram in the heart of the Negev; Neot Smadar, Israel’s only all-organic kibbutz
- Day 5: Israel’s southern borders, with both Jordan and Egypt; Timna, an ancient desert site with the world’s oldest copper mines; The Red Sea
As both partner organizations have an environmental focus, we also have various educators on the ride to inform riders about ecological challenges in the region, as well as recent successes in the field.
While at rest stops along the route, Arava Institute educators will present about environmental issues that pertain to the region in which we are riding. These may include:
- Water usage – Water is of the utmost importance in the desert and throughout the region. We will learn about Israel’s water conservation efforts, recent desalination developments, and how water plays a role in the modern political landscape.
- Energy – Israel is slowly exploring alternative energy sources, but most energy is still fossil-fuel based. While Israel has recently discovered off-shore natural gas deposits, the future of this resource is up for debate. While on Kibbutz Ketura we will see the first solar field in Israel.
- Land Use – Along the coast, Israel is one of the densest countries in the world, while the desert in the south is still open but very inviting for modern development. Land use controversies have arisen over the past years, including one regarding a desert sand dune area just south of Kibbutz Ketura, home of the Arava Institute.
- Forestation – Israel was one of the few countries to end the 20th century with more trees than they had at the start. However, recent forest fires have devastated some of Israel’s national forests, even as Israel continues to explore ways to make forests bloom in a semi-arid climate.
Some evenings we will also have a chance to hear from Arava Institute alumni, who will present on projects they have started following their time at the Institute.
Staff from Hazon will also talk about their work in creating healthier and more sustainable communities – focusing on how we relate to the food we eat, and where that food comes from. Sessions on Shabbat will explore this topic in depth, including how Jewish tradition can inform our food choices.
Each time, the Ride deepens my connection to the Land. There is nothing that compares to riding through the desert.
— Lester, 2014 Rider