Wheels of Love Israel Bike Ride
By Steve Zerobnick, Vice President & Content Development Director, Keshet
Why would anyone take the last week of October off to go riding through Israel at the beginning of the rainy season?
For the Kids
The annual “Wheels of Love” five-day bike ride is a fundraiser for the Alyn Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem.This hospital, which treats Jewish, Moslem and Christian children and is the only hospital in the country that has a synagogue and mosque on the premises, is said to perform miracles. The staff’s knowledge and experience, coupled with their optimism in the potential for exceptional children to live regular lives, puts this institution into a category of its own.
I had the honor of riding with a woman named Smadar for more than 500 kilometers, over muddy, rocky, uphill, downhill and mixed terrain. We rode together to help her son, Or, and several thousand other children who are treated at the Alyn Hospital. Although I had met her son over the years, it was not until I saw the video which tells his story that I truly understood who he is and what their family has been through. When I asked Smadar how she thought to name her son “Or,” which means “light” in Hebrew, she said that he simply radiated light from the very beginning.
Riding with Smadar, a kibbutznik who now lives in the southern city of Kiryat Gat, I was inspired by her modesty and optimism. When I asked her how she was able do the very challenging off-road ride, with all its hills, mud, rocks and puddles, she simply responded, “I grew up on a kibbutz!” Having seen the rickety, one-speed bikes which typically litter kibbutzim, it isn’t clear how this helped her, but she rode with or ahead of me for most of the ride!
For Love of Israel
The five-day route takes you through some of the most beautiful terrain of Israel. There are five different routes, including “Off-Road”, my group, which rode about 40 miles a day on dirt roads and “single track” trails, and the Touring option, where riders bike each morning, then turn in their bikes for touring around Israel for the second half of the day. All routes go so far beyond anything you can see in Israel on your own. We started the ride with an opening ceremony at the Kadoori School, an agricultural school where Yitzhak Rabin Z”L studied as a youth. It was incredibly meaningful to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his assassination in such a significant place.
As we left Kadoori, Mount Tabor came into view. Riding through the thick mud, which eventually forced us to cancel the day’s ride, the Biblical story of the battle between the Canaanites and the Israelites, which took place at the mountain’s base, came to life. The Canaanites, led by King Sisera of Hatzor, had a clear advantage over the technologically primitive Israelites because of their mastery over iron, which allowed them the use of chariots. However, the creative Israelite general, Barak, under the inspiration of the prophetess, Deborah, turned the Canaanite’s advantage into a disadvantage. God dramatically intervened on their behalf, causing an enormous storm rendering their chariots useless, as they got stuck in the mud, making them easy prey for the Israelites.
Getting into shape and getting out into nature is something that many of us aspire to. Riding the hills of Israel is both a physical challenge and a unique way in which to experience this fascinating country, with lots of surprises along the way. Truth be told: I struggled for much of the ride, lagging far beyond the main group of riders who seemed to ride much more easily than I. However, breathing the fresh air brought out the kid in me; I gleefully rode the downhills like roller-coasters and splashed straight through the pools and puddles along the way, while everyone else carefully veered around them.
It rained on the first and last days of the five-day ride. As we climbed up to Jerusalem from Sha’ar Hagai, the rain came down most of the time, varying between a drizzle and a downpour. I found myself riding up the JNF roads that go through Nahal Kesalon alone, which granted me a unique, personal, spiritual experience. I felt the rain of God’s abundance coming down on me as a blessing, leaving me feeling grateful for the opportunity to create such an intimate connection with this beautiful land.
Organize a group of riders from your community, and we will prepare a bike tour that goes beyond your wildest imagination! Contact us to get started.