The 2016 Israel Ride officially began Wednesday morning when we all departed Jerusalem by bus to a hilltop/mountain outside Jerusalem.

At approximately 8:15 a.m., we begin Day 1 by experiencing a steep 2-mile descent from the Jerusalem mountains to the plain below. This exhilarating ride (with my personal speed exceeding 35 mph on two 25mm tires and a bike that weighs less than 20 pounds) is quickly gone as we climb for the next hour or more in the steep Valley of Ella. This is the biblical location of where David slew Goliath and the present location of a vast Israel Defense Forces satellite installation.

The three ride groups (Shomrim, Tzofim and Chalutzim) meet near Kibbutz Aderet for the day’s first rest stop. The rest stops and lunch breaks are all staffed by students and alumni of the Arava Institute — Israeli Arabs and Jews, Palestinians, and Jordanians — for which we ride to raise much needed scholarship funds and ultimately “pedal for peace.”

We continue cycling through the magificent agricultural fields growing grapes and have lunch at Kibbutz Gal’On. After a lunch stop, we ride down to the Mediterranean coast and the city of Ashkelon. The cool ocean air revives many of the cyclists after a warm-to-hot day in November and 54 miles of cycling for the group (Tzofim) I ride with.