Trip of a lifetime for bike riders
The Wayland Town Crier - June 23, 2005
Two local residents participated in the third annual Jerusalem-to-Eilat Bike Ride in Israel, sponsored by the Arava Environmental Institute, from May 10 to 17.
Over 100 riders, from diverse backgrounds and ages ranging from 17 to 78, cycled 300 miles in five days. Beginning in Jerusalem, the group traveled 74 miles through the Judean hills and across the fertile coastal plain to the ancient Mediterranean port of Ashkelon the first day.
During the succeeding four days, the bikers crossed the largely empty Negev Desert, staying overnight at Kibbutzim and small towns. One of the Kibbutzim was Sde Boker where Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion established a home to prove to the world that the desert (which comprises 50 percent of the land of Israel) could support a viable population. Sde Boker now has one of the largest solar energy installations in the world. It is home to an educational and research institute whose the focus is making the desert productive.
After spending the Sabbath at the large Ramon Cirque, the bikers descended to Kibbutz Ketura (home of the Arava Institute), located in the Arava Valley which forms the boundary between Israel and Jordan. The ride was completed by climbing the Eilat mountains and then, in a spectacular 2,500-foot descent, the bikers ended their trip in the town of Eilat, located at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. The bikers were treated to refreshments and a delightful swim in the cool and deep Gulf waters.
Kurt Linden, a resident of Wayland (with his wife Sue) since 1969, for whom this was the first long distance bike ride of any type, said, “This was the trip of a lifetime. I got to see Israel in a way I never did before.
“Everybody knows that Israel is a very small country, but on a bike the fields of grass and wheat that extend across the coastal plan just seemed to go on and on, and the Negev desert was much bigger than I thought. I didn’t expect so many long up-hills, and I am really proud of having completed the entire ride.”
Linden said all of the riders shared a deep concern over the environment everywhere in the world, and they all love Israel.
“Our youngest son Ben spent a summer at Kibbutz Ketura in 1991 picking dates, mangos and other crops, and I thought about him as I walked through the experimental orchards where there was once nothing but dry desert.”
Marc Schultz of Sudbury, also a first time long-distance rider, said, “The whole experience was incredible. We raised much needed funds for an institution doing great work. We did it by riding a crazy distance across a wonderful land with amazing people.
“Meeting and bicycling with students of the institute brought home the importance of the work being done by the Arava Institute. Kurt and I followed the successful pedaling done by two other bicyclers from Temple Israel of Natick. Cantor Robert Scherr and Ron Balk completed the ride last year and spread the importance and excitement of the ride. We hope to be doing the same. The ride was great!”
The Arava Environmental Institute is dedicated to promoting environmental awareness in the region including Israel, Palestinian areas, Egypt and Jordan.
Standing on the Eilat Mountains, one can see Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and it does not require much imagination to realize that regional cooperation will become more and more urgent as the population growth continues.
In close cooperation with Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheba, the Environmental Institute offers courses dealing with environmental sciences, which are taken by Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians. The institute is dedicated to promoting peace by reaching out to all interested neighbors to join in its environmental protection efforts.
Anyone interested in obtaining more information about the institute and the annual Israel Bike Ride can go to www.israelride.com
The next two rides are May 9 to 16, 2006 and May 1 to 8, 2007. Both Linden and Schultz are planning to again participate in the ride in 2007.