topics: bamba (food), friendship, peaceful coexistence, Caesarea Roman Theater & Crusader City; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: January 20, 1998

Food of the Day: Bamba

Bamba is a snack food made in Israel. Much like the generic junk food people in the USA know as cheese puffs, these bite-sized squishies that melt in your mouth are flavored instead with peanut butter powder! Anat, one of the wonderful women from the Re'ut-Sadaqqa commune introduced us to this late-night delight. How could she have known that Corinne is such a peanut butter fiend?

Word of the Day: Yamania — "maniac"

The word for "maniac" in Hebrew, yamania click to hear an audio clip, sounds a lot like it does in English, but is regarded as a much stronger insult and used to describe someone who is both stupid and screwed up in the head. It's an ideal word we like to use for irresponsible drivers on Israeli highways. The funny thing is, we have reason to believe that drivers think the same about us — riding our bikes cross-country on the highway in the rain!!

Tech Fact of the Day: Israel's National Parks

Israel, although a small country, has 44 national parks. Blessed with such an extremely diverse landscape, Israel protects its natural and often historical (meaning they contain ruins) sites, which serve as excellent educational grounds and preservation areas. Several such preserves are also found in the West Bank territories, and are just one part of the many points of contention in the peace process.

Person of the Day: Amit Perelson click to view a photograph

Amit Perelson, our host in Haifa, is a part-time facilitator who provides general operational help to Re'ut-Sadaqqa, a Jewish and Arab friendship program for youth. Amit is a vegetarian who also shuns dairy products and eggs; no coffee or cigarettes are found in his daily diet, either. Amit spent a year with Re'ut-Sadaqqa after high school, then went to mandatory military service for three years. He considers himself "very far left" minded, but did his army service to balance out the ranks against both conservative and liberal people. About six months ago, he returned to Re'ut-Sadaqqa to work, but will soon go to university to expand his knowledge and capabilities as an environmental and political activist. click to view a photograph

Place of the Day: Highway Number 2

Israel's Highway 2 runs along the Mediterranean coast from just north of Tel Aviv to Haifa. While it is unimaginable to most sane people to cycle on the freeway, Highway 2 is the only viable option for a cross-country pedal in Israel. The road is smooth and flat, which is great, and somehow today the wind off the sea and from the south was kind. The cliffs and mountains to our right were dotted with climbing villages and . . . giant artwork!! Every few kilometers, high up on a cliff, there were enormous structures, poised and mellow, as if they were a natural part of the landscape. Surreal as they were, they did not warrant a stop for photographic purposes. You'll just have to take our word for it: There was a stove and flame plank, a sailboat-looking structure, and the biggest straight-backed chair we've ever seen. Nowhere was there a sign describing the what, why, or WHO or this coastal-cliff artwork, but it sure was entertaining!

Group Dispatch, January 20

picture of Corinne

Our short but sweet visit at Givat Haviva ended this morning after an early breakfast with our hostess on the campus, Sara. Ever-enlightening conversation made for a leisurely and extended meal, during which we also prepared sandwiches to take on the road. We did, however, have to move on. After a few adjustments to Corinne's deteriorating rear wheel (remember the troubles back in Sicily?), which thankfully will be replaced when Padraic arrives with replacements, we were on our way. click to view a photograph

The sky was quite cloudy and Anthony predicted a 99% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, we had plenty of kilometers to cover and hoped to keep the rain at bay for as long as possible. Our first visit of the day was scheduled for the outdoor ruins in Caesarea, and we didn't want to be disappointed. After all, it's just not that often a person is in the midst of ancient ruins, and we wouldn't have time to go back — a common frustration among BikeAbouters. So we put all our "good energy" toward making it the 20 km (12 mi) before the showers started.

Despite our efforts, Anthony's pessimism (increased to a 99.9% chance of rain) prevailed. Soon enough, the lightening and thunder erupted, and the sky broke with a steady drizzle. We didn't get all that far before having to pull over, put on the few pieces of rain gear we have, and re-check the plastic bags protecting our water-resistant but not waterproof paniers. It was a good thing we did. By the time we were less than 100 meters (109 yds) from the gate of the ruins, the rain was gushing down in wicked sheets, and we had to find shelter. Quickly.

For almost an hour the rain fell. We took advantage of the time to eat and switch to warmer, drier clothes (it was getting colder too). And we hoped to wait out the downpour. click to view a photograph Finally, the sky's terror miraculously subsided and we were able to see the sites in the sunshine! click to view a photograph

Like so many towns (especially ports) along the Mediterranean coast, Caesarea is speckled with many amazing archaeological ruins, historical landmarks, and evidence of long-dead empires and cultures. The National Parks of Israel (see the Tech Fact of that Day) were kind enough to allow BikeAbout riders free entry into the Caesarea site, for which we owe them thanks.

We first visited the Roman Theater click to view a photograph and then the Crusader City. The Mediterranean is notorious for it's long and significant history of cities being handed (usually by force) from one culture or invading empire to another. The ruins discovered at these sites provide perfect evidence of this. While a Roman theater dating from the Roman era (37 BCE–324 CE) exists at one end of the bay, you can also see the remains of a city from the 1200s click to view a photograph (when the Crusaders were in power), and a 19th-century Bosnian refugee community just inside the port.

The theater was uncovered with a number of other relics from this time, including the only physical, non-Biblical evidence ever discovered that confirms the existence of Pontius Pilot, the Roman governor who ordered that Christ be crucified. click to view a photograph A variety of different statues were also on display in the entrance courtyard. click to view a photograph

From the theater, we pedaled down the road a bit to the coastal Crusader city and once again said hello to our friend the Sea. We thought about how ships and harbors have always been and continue to be very important, since trade made and makes many places wealthy and successful. Evidence of the bustling activity in this port was made obvious by the ancient anchors found both on land click to view a photograph and underwater. Since not all underwater ruins are brought up for inspection, if it had been a little warmer, we might have gone for a swim to have a look for ourselves, but we were in a rush to beat the next wave of rain.

The nearby Temple platform (the raised area upon which the central Roman temple was built, like the big area constructed over Mount Moriah in Jerusalem) was another indicator of the history contained within this one city. The platform is known to have been built by Herod the Great as a show of Roman nationalism and in honor of Augustus Caesar. (Just outside the high and precipitous outer wall of the Crusader city/fortress click to view a photograph is an excavation showing a mosaic inscription dedicated to King Herod. click to view a photograph) Archaeologists discovered foundations of the original Herodian structure underneath the Temple platform, but also an octagonal Byzantine church that was used later as a mosque by Arabs and a cathedral by the Crusaders.

Strolling through what was once the surrounding town, we peeked into the living areas, noting the small footpaths between buildings, and the fallen walls and support structures. click to view a photograph We gazed at a headless, red-marble monument and mosaic-floored plaza, trying to imagine what life was like here, the people that walked through this market . . . and what their bicycles looked like (just kidding). Then it was time to fly. click to view a photograph

It was already after 3 p.m. when we set off from Caesarea on our way to Haifa, which was another good 40 km further up Highway 2 along the Mediterranean coast. Because we spent the next several hours on this same stretch of road — flanked on the right by vast, beautiful and intimidating mountains — we've decided to make it the Place of the Day, so you can read all about it. Some of the things you may not believe, but it's ALL TRUE!

Our left-side companion (the Mediterranean Sea, of course) escorted us all the way into Haifa, even once the sun had set. Biking in the dark in a new place isn't very much fun, especially when it gets cold and clammy out, but then it started to rain again too! With a quick confirmation call, however, we were quickly at our host home. Fortunately it was on the coast, still close to the Sea, and not a climb up the demoralizingly steep Mount Carmel upon whose slopes Haifa was built.

The BikeAbout hosts in Haifa are an award-winning click to view a photograph youth exchange program called Re'ut-Sadaqqa. click to view a photograph It is a youth initiative that brings Jewish and Arab youth together for one year when they share a common living space (in Haifa) and work for cultural education in high schools. click to view a photograph They work in Arab/Jewish pairs and talk with students about the similarities and differences in their cultures. It's an extremely challenging program for the commune members, and it's just as hard to keep the project funded. (They have an office, commune, and staff apartment all in the same building.)

The staff of Re'ut-Sadaqqa is all part-time, since finances are so tight. As a result you are lucky to find the Re'ut-Sadaqqa Director, David Koren, in the office and taking a relaxed contemplative moment click to view a photograph; usually you'll catch him on his way in or out the door. click to view a photograph Still, at any given time in this office with a great view of the Baha'i Temple click to view a photograph, you will find some very dedicated people click to view a photograph collectively handling phone responsibilities click to view a photograph, discussing the various needs of the organization click to view a photograph, and enjoying time together with one another. Which is the whole point of the organization! You can also hear everyone flip-flopping languages between Hebrew, Arabic, and English click to view a photograph as if they are all one and the same! click to view a photograph

For more information about Re'ut-Sadaqqa, contact them at:

Jewish-Arab Youth Movement for Coexistence and Peace in Israel
Derech Allenby 20
Haifa 33265
Tel: +972.4.852.6926
Fax: +972.4.852.8392

Our first evening in Haifa at Re'ut-Sadaqqa was full of conversation with Amit (see the Person of the Day) and his friends, who announced when we entered that there was an article (in Hebrew) and big photo about us in today's Ha'aretz newspaper. Much thanks to Orna Landau (and everyone who led us to her — you know who you are Eyal and Doram) for helping us get into print. One of the people gathered with us translated the Hebrew for our eager ears!

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