As the evening sets in Jerusalem, I take a long walk among the old walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the “Teddy” Peace park where all faiths walk. Tomorrow, I will start a bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat, the first leg that will take me 63 miles from 2700 feet elevation in the Judean Hills to the coastline of Ashkelon. 130 riders besides me, from 18 states and 12 countries, from age 22 to age 77, many who have done this ride many times. Challenging ourselves physically (it will be 90 degrees in the desert) is no comparison to the challenges people face daily in the Middle East trying to work towards peace, sustainable living and solving difficult environmental problems.
The ARAVA Institute for whom we ride (our team, the TarDevils) has worked for 2 decades here to bring together Arab, Israeli and Palestinian teens and young adults; these students will be our hosts along the way. We will hear about their research and their amazing journeys. Staff includes many former students, from the West Bank, Jordan and Israel. We also ride for Hazon, with many branches in the US, that supports sustainable food, environment and social justice.
Today, we take a “test” ride to tune our bikes, through the Jerusalem forest, below Hertzl cemetery and Yad VaShem, the world’s foremost Holocaust museum. We listen to briefings about safety, heat, bicycling etiquette, drinking water, drinking more water, reminders to wear sunscreen, eating salty snacks, and finding a riding buddy. We all received advice that we live in a world that brings alive the spirit, and the spirit brings alive the world.
Made many new friends today from Atlanta, Israel, Michigan, Maryland, Colorado, Hartford and New York. Some singles, some married, one on their second honeymoon. An early meal, and off to bed before wake-up at 5:30 am.