topics: pomelo (food), Shabbat, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, HISTORY, Jerusalem for Bikes, Tel Aviv for Bikers, Challenge Ride; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: January 16–17, 1998

Food of the Day: Pomelo

The pomelo is the largest member of the citrus family. Approximately the size of andrEa's head (or a small watermelon), it possesses a thick skin (much thicker than even a grapefruit's) that you have to cut and peel away. Inside is a fruit that tastes a little like a grapefruit but which is not quite as sour.

Words of the Day: Directions

When riding a tandem bike (a bicycle built for two) with a partner who is visually disabled, especially one who speaks another language, it is important that both riders are able to communicate. While Anthony and Ethan were fortunate to have tandem bicycling partners who spoke English for today's adventure, they still took it upon themselves to learn the basic words necessary for communicating what was going on to their copilots. In Hebrew, smoola click to hear an audio clip means "left," while yemina click to hear an audio clip is "right." Aliya click to hear an audio clip is "up" (as in uphill) and yerida click to hear an audio clip is "down." Perhaps the most important word we learned is atzor click to hear an audio clip, which means "stop."

Tech Fact of the Day: Shabbat

In Israel, Shabbat (or Sabbath) tradition is practiced from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night. Shabbat (a word derived from the Hebrew verb shavat, meaning "to rest") is thought of as the seventh day of the week, a reminder of the creation of the world, when, as the Bible states, God labored for six days and rested on the seventh. (For most Christians, the day of rest is honored on Sunday, while for Muslims it is Friday).

Traditionally, the father and sons of the household go to the synagogue (Jewish temple) to pray, while the women stay home to prepare the meal. On his return, the father blesses the meal and reads from the Old Testament (known to Jews as the Torah). In orthodox Judaism, during this day of rest, most forms of work are not allowed. For example, all cooking and cleaning must be done before the beginning of Shabbat. Some religious households will not answer the phone during the Shabbat, or drive a car (this is one of the reasons why Jewish communities are quite concentrated — they needed to be within walking distance of the synagogue). In some homes, timers are used to turn on and off lights (the act of turning on a light is considered "work"). In Israel, where Judaism is the state religion, practiced by the majority of the population, most stores are closed and almost all city buses stop running. For this reason the BikeAbout team has quickly learned to plan ahead for Shabbat.

Person of the Day: Our hosts, Laurie Copans, the Tzemach family, and Gil and Gal Lenonai

Once again, our people of the day are our lovely hosts and hostesses. After a few days with Ethan's cousins Yefim and Nona Manusov, Ethan and Anthony were welcomed by Laurie Copans click to view a photograph during their last two nights in Jerusalem. Corinne and andrEa remained with their hosts Beni and Esther van Vlymen.

Laurie, in addition to working for Agence France Presse, is the highest ranked woman's mountain biker in Israel and actively involved in Jerusalem for Bikes. As part of her love of mountain biking and connection to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Laurie leads bike rides through environmentally endangered areas in the Jerusalem area. She hopes this will help raise awareness of natural resources and promote activism against unwarranted urban expansion. Laurie managed to find room amongst all her awards and trophies to house Anthony and Ethan and even succeeded in mesmerizing them both with the spicy spinach crust of her tasty quiche. Our biking helmets come off in thanks to her warm heart and culinary skills.

In Tel Aviv (our Place of the Day), the four BikeAbouters were once again welcomed into the homes of new friends and friends of friends: Ethan and Anthony were brought into the home of Ilan Tzemach, Manager of Gilad Import and Marketing Bicycles and the Wheeler bicycle representative in Israel, while andrEa and Corinne were offered a space to sleep by Gil and Gal Lenonai, friends of Ethan's friend Jen Dubin.

Ilan Tzemach and his family offered to house the two guys without any real prior knowledge of who they were or what BikeAbout is. For this we are truly, truly thankful. And we are even more appreciative of their generosity and understanding as the guys were given Ilan's daughter's room from which they worked through a busy and sometimes late-night schedule of visits, meetings, and meals.

Gil and Gal took in andrEa and Corinne with no more than a few email correspondences and the good word of a common friend. For this we are also truly thankful. They showed enormous patience with all of the BikeAbout gang as our ever-too-flexible schedule made it impossible for Ethan, who really wanted to meet them, to cross their paths until his last night in Tel Aviv.

To all these friends — and those in Jerusalem! — we are forever grateful and hope that we will stay in touch!

Place of the Day: Tel Aviv

The modern-day city of Tel Aviv was founded just north of the traditionally Arab town of Jaffa (or Yafo in Hebrew) by Jews seeking to leave the crowded confines of Jaffa. Situated only 60 km (37 mi) from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv could not be more different than Jerusalem if it tried.

Tel Aviv is a relatively new city (100 years old compared to Jerusalem's thousands of years). Perhaps for that reason, while Jerusalem seems to be preoccupied with tradition, history, and the occasional chaos that comes with the meeting of three of the world's major religions, Tel Aviv is a modern, forward-thinking, cutting-edge city obsessed with the latest fads, music, and architecture. And beaches! Kilometers of beaches fronted by numerous cafes, restaurants, and, perhaps most importantly, wonderfully soft, fine (what Padraic would call "really nice") sand.

While the area around Jaffa has been inhabited for over 4,000 years, it was only in the early 20th century that the city of Tel Aviv saw its pioneers. Tel Aviv (meaning "hill of spring" in Hebrew) was established by Jewish settlers on a sand dune north of Jaffa. During World War I, despite the Ottoman Empire's decision to break up and relocate the portions of its population that sympathized with the opposing Allied forces, the city grew slowly but steadily. However, the speed of the increase accelerated dramatically following the anti-Jewish riots in Jaffa during the early 20th century, and then the stepped-up immigration of Jews from Europe fleeing the rise of Nazi Germany. Over the course of World War II, Tel Aviv was host to about two million Allied troops. During the war, it also became the center of Zionist resistance against British anti-immigration policies.

In May 1948, Tel Aviv was made the provisional capital of Israel, but following the 1948 War for Independence, the capital was moved to Jerusalem (although, for security reasons, the Ministry of Defense remained in Tel Aviv). After struggling through the difficult early years of Israel's independence, Tel Aviv started to experience an economic revival. Tel Aviv today is a very modern city with wide tree-lined avenues and a seemingly endless supply of cafés, restaurants, and beaches.

Unfortunately, Tel Aviv may be most recently remembered as the target of Iraqi SCUD missiles during the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War (despite Israel's non-combatant status) and as the site of numerous bombings by Hamas — an Islamic resistance movement strongly opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Group Dispatch, January 16–17

picture of Anthony

During their last day in Jerusalem, Corinne and andrEa wrapped up business and made arrangements for the next part of our journey, while Ethan and Anthony started their Friday morning with, yes, an organized bike ride. But this was not your ordinary weekend bike ride. Nor was it with your ordinary group of bikers. In association with our now good friends from Jerusalem for Bikes, the Israel Outdoor Sport and Recreation Association for the Disabled has started a tradition of meeting every Saturday morning for what they call their "Challenge Ride." Equipped with a fleet of tandem bikes (bicycles built for two people) and helped by Erez, an energetic and enthusiastic BikeAbout friend, the group teams up "seeing" volunteers with sight-disabled participants. Together, seeing and sight-disabled riders embark on a two- or three-hour escorted tour of Jerusalem.

Ethan and Anthony showed up bright and early. They arrived as early as they did because they had never before ridden on tandem bikes and wanted to make sure that they were not going to pilot their machines into a tree somewhere. Together they hopped on to a waiting bike and made several loops around the parking lot. They both agreed that this was a completely different form of biking from what they were used to (even when compared to hauling the B.O.B. trailers around). It was strange being the person in the rear (called the "stoker"), who does not having steering, braking, or even shifting control. They both tried to imagine what it must be like for someone who is incapable of seeing to ride behind a "captain" in the front. Quickly realizing that they were both too stubborn-headed ever to be able to ride a tandem bike together, our intrepid heroes made their way back to the gathering bike group in search of more experienced (and trusting) partners.

Once the group was organized and Anthony and Ethan met Orni and Shalom, their respective partners, the trip set off. Anthony knew that he was in trouble when his partner, Orni, told him that she liked to go fast and she liked to be first. Anthony reminded her that he did not know the route they were supposed to take, but Orni said, "Do not worry, I'll tell you where to go!" Shalom, Ethan's riding partner, was content to stay with the group but still tackled the ride with great gusto. However, it quickly became obvious that, even though both of their partners spoke at least a little English, a Hebrew lesson was necessary. Anthony and Ethan quickly learned the Hebrew words for "left," "right," "up(hill)," "down," and perhaps most importantly, "stop" (see the Words of the Day). Unfortunately, they were concentrating so hard on driving the tandem machines that they had to be taught the essential Hebrew biking commands over and over. All in all though, they had a great time. Plus, it was a little easier getting up the ubiquitous hills of Jerusalem with two people pedaling.

Being the "eyes" for someone while biking was an amazing experience. Anthony and Ethan would attempt to describe what they were passing and made sure that their partners were informed of all traffic lights and stop signs. As they rode, they talked with their partners about Jerusalem and bikes and how much fun it is to swoop downhill especially after sweating to the top of the hill in the easiest gear. During the flat sections of the ride, Anthony's partner would peel tangerines and pass them up to him while telling him about her plans to go skiing in Colorado.

Eventually the group ended up back at the stadium where they had started and, after posing for a group photo or two click to view a photograph click to view a photograph, Anthony and Ethan headed back to where they had stored their bags, and started the ride to Tel Aviv.

Because of the late start, the BikeAbout team arrived in Tel Aviv just at sunset and quickly dispersed to their respective host families (see the People of the Day). Since it was Friday, the setting of the sun ushered in Shabbat, or the Jewish day of rest (see the Tech Fact of the Day). Shabbat in Israel is an amazing experience. As the sun goes down, the country seems to shut down. Stores close and streets and sidewalks clear of traffic and pedestrians. Everyone heads for home and the Shabbat meal.

Once the BikeAbouters had cleaned and dressed in non-bike clothes, they gathered at the home of Orna Landau, Shmuel Rosnerm and their 6-month-old son, Shaul, for a traditional Shabbat meal. Orna and Shmuel had offered to share Shabbat with the BikeAbouters. The meal starts off with a prayer, called a kiddish, that is said over the wine (or grape juice) and the bread. The prayer is one of thanks for the drink and food. Everyone takes a sip of wine and the head of the household breaks the bread (traditionally challah) and distributes it amongst the family. After this and a reading from the Torah referring to the importance of Shabbat, the meal is begun.

Orna and Shmuel proved to be as good a source of information about Israel as they were of yummy food. We made our way through the meal asking countless questions about Israeli life, religion, politics, history, and also about Shabbat itself. Finally, when our stomachs were stuffed full of food and our heads were packed with information, we stumbled back to our respective host homes to collapse in bed.

Because Saturday is the day of rest associated with Shabbat, we had planned to do nothing but work on overdue dispatches. With a steely resolve, the BikeAbouters woke early, dragged themselves out of their beds, and started working. There was just one problem — it was a gloriously beautiful day. The sun was out (finally!), it was about 75 degrees, birds were chirping, bees were buzzing, and we could already see people heading towards the Mediterranean Sea and the beaches of Tel Aviv. Not to be deterred, the BikeAbouters forced themselves back inside, out of the suns bright glare.

But, just as the work commenced in earnest, the phone rang . . . . It was our friend Micky from the Tel Aviv Bikers Association. He was trying to organize an impromptu bike ride in honor of our arrival and wanted to know if we would be interested in going for a brief tour of the city. This proved to be too much of a temptation and an hour later we were gathered in Rabin Square. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

As was previously mentioned, Tel Aviv is often distant from the political turmoil that is part of everyday life in Jerusalem. Sadly, on occasion, the troubles of the region visit this peaceful city. Perhaps the most traumatic of all was the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a central Tel Aviv rally held in the square now named in his honor. The rally was in support of the then ongoing Israeli-Arab peace process. As Rabin was leaving the rally of more than 300,000 people, an extremist shot him three times in the back. This was the first political assassination in Israel's short history. The shock and horror that many Israeli's felt was augmented by the fact that the assassin was an Israeli Jew. The square is now named in honor of Rabin and a small memorial marks the spot where he was gunned down. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

BikeAbout has already spoken out against acts of terrorism and so we would like to take this opportunity to honor Mr. Rabin's memory and the peace process that is his legacy. All of us share Mr. Rabin's dream of peace and it is our sincere hope that present and future Israeli governments will strive to culture the hope that Mr. Rabin planted in the minds of both Palestinians and Israelis for a final and just peace.

With Sagit click to view a photograph leading the way, Ethan and Anthony headed out with Marcos and Micky, all from the Tel Aviv Bikers Association. (Corinne and andrEa decided to remain inside, thus saving themselves from the possibly harmful effects of the Mediterranean sun while, at the same time, completing their dispatches.) Our tour first headed north to Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park (where U2 played recently). The Yarkon Park stretches along the Yarkon River and is a wonderful expanse of green grass, water, and playgrounds. click to view a photograph At first we had to weave our way through dozens of Tel Avivians busy barbecuing and playing frisbee, but soon Sagit led us to a dirt path that ran along the river. Anthony and Ethan were already suspicious of what lay ahead when everyone had shown up riding mountain bikes. Before long, BikeAbout headed off road. click to view a photograph

Biking along the river was a wonderful, peaceful, and relaxing experience click to view a photograph (well at least for most of the riders; Ethan kept discovering gravity again, and again, and again). As we left the park, we crossed the river on an old single-lane bridge scheduled for demolition. Our guides remarked how the bridge (which was deemed unsafe for cars) was perfect for joggers, walkers and bicyclists, and so everyone resolved to make the preservation of the bridge the next Tel Aviv Bikers Association project.

We ended our ride on the boardwalk overlooking the Mediterranean and the setting sun. click to view a photograph Near death from hunger and with the last of our energy, we coasted down the to Banana Beach (so named because of the yellow chairs that dominate the area). Satiating ourselves on humus, we thanked our new friends, made plans to meet the next night, and rode back to our host home.

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