Shabbat Shalom from Mitzpeh Ramon, a Negev town perched on top of a giant erosion crater. All assurances to the contrary, there was no wifi at our Thursday evening youth center lodging, surely the only place in Israel without such a connection. So the Thursday column that I had 92 miles to prepare is now coming to you. My Happy Halloween message, very important, was also missed; not a big deal here but actually it was on the radar screen.
Thursday was the long ride. Apart from the middle 25 miles, it was a really great ride. We were hugging the border, first with Gaza and then with Egypt. From a small hill a few miles away, you can see the whole entirety of the Gaza Strip. Yet in that small space there are 1.7 million people, with Egypt keeping them out of the Sinai and Israel maintaining its gift of independence but closed borders for security reasons. It is quite a recipe for trouble, with no easy solution.
Thursday lunch was 66 miles from the start. We start early. The difficult 25 miles referenced above were just before lunch, almost totally uphill with lots of headwinds and we had already done 40 miles. For bikers, think anti Seagull Century. I was wasted and, given that the next 26 miles were to be marked by some elevation but even more wicked crosswinds, any attractive offer would have put me on the bus. I decided to give it a try, and for the first time in modern memory it was totally tailwinds on that stretch and the fastest ride of the day. Remember about stopping one turn short of the top the day before? I try to learn from my own lessons.
The ride is co-sponsored by Hazon, a growing institution based in NYC that aims to create healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond. Among its programs are the largest CSA (community sponsored agriculture) program in the States, food conferences and festivals, bike rides in Israel and NY and Cal, the Jewish food education network, the shared space it has created for second-stage Jewish non- profits, and it’s blog, the Jew and the Carrot (www.jcarrot.org) in partnership with the Forward. In practical terms, nobody is doing this important work with their vision (hazon) and scope. Much of the genius for all this is its remarkable CEO, Nigel Savage, who was our Scholar in Residence a few years back and continues to stimulate thinking among Jewish leadership in so many ways. He is on the ride, and I have some new ideas to being back to you from my dinner with Nigel.
The co-sponsor is the Arava Institute. We will visit there on Monday and I will report on its remarkable activities at that time, if there is wifi.
For now, we have done a 60 miler today with only a sandstorm and two ridiculous hills to mar the ride. We are settling in for Shabbat in Mitzpeh Ramon. Shabbat starts at 4:25 so I am rushing, but did want to send an update and wish you a Shabbat Shalom from Israel, not the only place in the world that you can keep Shabbat but the only place where it is part of the rhythm and rhyme of the Jewish experience going back to the patriarchs, whose footsteps we are always crossing.
Shabbat Shalom. Bill Rudolph