It’s Wednesday: October 29-30, 2013

Erev Tov from Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem

Anyone concerned about the Pew Survey of Jews in the United States need only have dropped in at Beth El on Sunday for Mitzvah Day. There was an extraordinary amount of good Jewish tikkun olam/social action, with participants from across the demographics of our community. At the shul alone, between the electronics being carted in to the big bags of clothing to the seventh graders working on their raking movements, it was actually kind of dangerous to be standing in the atrium. A nice kind of dangerous. Kudos to co-chairs Sheryl Miller and Jonathan Polon, and their several dozen activity captains, for a job well done and for creating a beautiful picture of people doing the right thing (which is what the word tzedakah means.)

I am in Israel for my second Arava Institute – Hazon Israel Ride and for a piece of our Federation’s pre General Assembly mission. Wednesday we ride from Jerusalem to Ashkelon, either 29 or 55 or 63 miles depending on factors that were not as relevant when I did the ride six years ago. Factors like many of my body parts hurt and I haven’t started riding. Anyway, we embark at 6:45AM, when you are cozily tucked in for the night (DST is already ended here) and reach the coastal city in mid afternoon long after the usual 7:30AM appearance of It’s Wednesday. I didn’t want you to worry, so I am sending this out late Tuesday while I have a good wifi signal, and hope to write again sometime tomorrow with more about the ride and why it is so much more than just a ride.

Leilah Tov.  Bill Rudolph





Shalom from Ashkelon.

We made it safely to the Mediterranean. It was a beautiful ride. I made the right choice of distance. The only problem was the hill coming out of Jerusalem. I thought I would become one of those tank carcasses on the roadside from the War of Independence. After a few miles of climbing, I had to stop to catch my breath. ( Note that most of my group had stopped long before but I hate stopping.) I was a sorry sight, draped over the handlebars, gasping for air. I caught my breath and started up the hill again. Around the first turn, not even fifty yards from my stopping place,  was the top of the hill and a long beautiful downhill. Sometimes in life we stop just a little too soon and miss out on more than beautiful downhills. I hope you haven’t experienced that.

On the positive side, Israeli truck and car drivers were surprisingly kind to us as we frequently encroached on their turf. What’s with that?

Today might be called Philistine Day. Early on we went by the open field where the young king – to – be David took out his slingshot and killed the Philistine giant Goliath. We went through Gath and are spending the overnight in Ashkelon. Together they are two of the five Philistine cities – the others are Gaza Ekron and Ashdod –  that were extant and flourishing when the motley crew of freed Israelite slaves entered the Promised Land. Very quickly our ancestors figured out that they would be wise to steer clear of the Philistines, who had mastered iron ( this was Iron Age I) and were able to produce weapons for which the Israelites had no answer.  The Goliath story was scarcely repeated until eventually the Israelite monarchy led by David and Solomon was strong enough to conquer anyone in its path.

Gath is a sleepy little town. Ashkelon is quite an attractive city that is growing despite the occasional rocket from the most southerly of the five cities, Gaza. Israeli control of Gaza and its environs was given up for a variety of reasons some years back; it represents now one of the significant political and security problems that Israel ( and now Egypt) faces. But on a beautiful fall day, only an Air Force jet streaking towards Gaza and riders yelling “car back” break the spell of tranquility.

Tomorrow is the longest day of riding. Up to 93 miles and a lot of elevation. I hope to report in on the day’s ride and some narrative about co- sponsor Hazon tomorrow evening.    Best to,you for a good Wednesday.      Bill Rudolph