Two will pedal 300 miles in Israel to raise money for Arava Institute

Two will pedal 300 miles in Israel to raise money for Arava Institute

BY KEREN DOUEK, STAFF WRITER

Daniel Kweskin and Dr. Harvey Solomon, of St. Louis, traveled more than 6,000 miles to raise money for the Arava Institute in Israel.

And that was just the beginning.

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When they got to Israel, the pair biked 300 miles, together with approximately 130 Arab, Jewish and Christian bicyclists, from Jerusalem to Eilat, as part of the fourth annual Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, to support peace, partnership and environmental protection.

The Arava Institute is a teaching and research program in the Middle East, preparing Arabs and Jews to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges. It is in its 10th year.

The bike tour — which is a ride, as opposed to a race — took six days, and included daily environmental lectures and geological visits. A licensed tour guide, Bill Slott, accompanied the riders and provided commentary, as did Dr. Alon Tal, founder of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and Jacob Fine, Hazon’s rabbinical fellow.

Riders were required to raise a minimum of $3,600 in donations before the ride in order to participate.

Approximately 75 percent of the net proceeds go to the Arava Institute, with the remaining 25 percent going to Hazon, a New York-based Jewish environmental organization that promotes an annual series of fundraising rides.

The Jewish National Fund acted as a major partner, promoting a JNF team for the ride. Members of the JNF team raised funds like all the riders, but the proceeds of their fundraising will go to JNF, which will then disburse the money to the Arava Institute.

Kweskin and Solomon were drafted to participate through JNF, after Kweskin — who is on the board of JNF — hosted a presentation by the director of the Arava Institute at his house.

“I’ve been doing long distance rides for at least 18 years,” Kweskin said, listing among those the MS Bike Tour, as well as tours in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Quebec, among others.

For Solomon, who is also involved in JNF, this ride was a first.

“This is my first long bike ride,” he said before the trip, although he has been biking for approximately eight years. Solomon said he was excited, but admitted to being a little nervous as well.

“I know the territory,” he said. “I lived in these areas, in Jerusalem for 10 years and the Negev for eight years, but unfortunately I also know the hills are pretty steep.”

Solomon said he has been training in between his work schedule, as a transplant surgeon at St. Louis University, including outside biking and a spinning class.

Kweskin said he was confident they would both do fine and enjoy the ride.

“I’ve learned over the years that once you realize what 60 or 70 miles is, you pace yourself. So much of it is psychological. Once you really accept it, and are not just waiting for the end, you literally enjoy it all and realize that when it is over it will be over.”

Both riders had a successful trip and returned to St. Louis last week, a bit sore but proud of their accomplishments.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Solomon said. “It was quite inspiring.”

Solomon said the trip is something he will remember for the rest of his life.

When asked what his favorite part was, he said he really enjoyed the break on Shabbat.

For more information visit www.israelride.org or contact Nigel Savage at 212-284-6812 or [email protected] To sponsor a rider visit www.israelride.org and follow the links to the 2006 Israel Ride, and to Support a Rider.

Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]