Day 2: Ashqelon to the Northern Negev

On Day 2 of the 2016 Israel, our group Tzofim (experienced cyclists) biked 67.1 miles in the heat of the Northern Negev. We started out at the port city of Ashqelon along the Mediterranean Sea near the border with Gaza and cycled past agricultural communities in Israel along the border with Gaza. Along the way we pass the JNF-KKL Nir Am Reservoir that provides water-apply to the agricultural communities and industry in the Northern Negev near Gaza. It is apparent that Israeli agricultural technology provides the know-how to feed the region’s population. The key is mutual cooperation, which is fostered by the Arava Institute for Environmental Sudies (http://www.arava.org) and Hazon (http://www.hazon.org). This is why we “pedal for peace”.

Morris Maslia standing by the JNF-KKL Nir Am Reservoir in Northern Negev. Gaza communities are in the far background

Cycling past the vast Israeli agricultural farms and fields in the Norterhn Negev along the border with Gaza

Day 3: Northern Negev to Mitzpe Ramon

Day 3 is by far the most difficult with continuously rising hills to climb, some exceeding 8%-10% grades for 2 to 3 miles or longer at the time. We begin the day with the daily D’var Torah and Shofar Blowing, which on this day, I have been given the honor to blow the shofar (good thing I was in “shofar-blowing shape” from the recent High Holy Days!). Our group, Tzofim, lodged at Kibbutz Mashabe Sade in Northern Negev on Thursday evening, so we bike from there to the Ben Gurion Memorial at Sde Boker for lunch. Words just cannot begin to adequately express the vastness and beauty of the Negev from David and Paula Ben Gurion’s gravesite memorial. The work of the Arava Institute is nothing short of a direct result of David Ben Gurion’s dream of “making the desert bloom.”

Tzofim ride group getting ready to leave Kibbuz Mashabe Sade in the Northern Negev for the Day 3 ride to Mitzpe Ramon

The vast beauty of the Negev from the Ben Gurion Memorial Site at Sde Boker

Members of the JNF-Atlanta Team at the Ben Gurion Memorial in Sde Boker overlooking the vast beauty of the Negev. Members picured are (L to R): Richard Mitcherll, Amy Kahn, Morris Maslia, and Ann Weiner
Morris Maslia standing in from of David and Paula Ben Gurion gravesite athe the Ben Gurion Memorial in Sde Boker

After lunch, the Tzofim Group begin their afternoon cycling from Sde Boker to Mitzpe Ramon, which is at an elevation of 2,800 feet (recall we have started out from Ashqelon on Day 2, which is at sea level). It is a long, very hot, and arduous afternoon of substantial hill climbs, some exceeding 10% grades for 2 to 3 miles at a time. Additionally, because Shabbat begins in Israel at 4:30 pm, all cyclists much reach Mtizpe Ramon and check into their room no later than about 2:30 pm. This cyclist is pleased to say, that not only did our JNF-Atlanta team manage to climb every hill without falling off of our bikes or having to stop in the middle of a hill climb to rest (called “boinking” in cycling jargon), but we all made it to Mitzpe Ramon by 2:00 pm. What a personal and a group accomplishment we have achieved.

Reaching the crest of one mof the many very and steep grade hills on the climb from Sde Boker to Mitzpe Ramon

And now, it is time for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) in Mitzpe Ramon–literally a welcome Day of Rest by all cyclists and crew members of all faiths on the 2016 Israel Ride. Shabbat Shalom from Mitzpe Ramon, Israel.

Welcoming Shabbat at Mitzpe Ramon with the lghting of the Sabbath Candles