Ride Day Four | Shabbat and the Arava

Karen BrierNegev Trip 2013

All of the Ramah riders and hikers are now sitting around the pool at Kibbutz Ketura enjoying a swim, dinner, and much needed relaxation after another action-filled day. (Click here to read about today’s hike.) Unfortunately, a heat wave has settled over southern Israel and temperatures today reached 100 degrees. Nevertheless, all are healthy and happy and looking forward to tomorrow’s final day of adventure together.

Shabbat at Mitzpe Ramon was magical. Beginning with Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat services, all 72 participants came together as a community, united in the cause that we have all supported. As in any Ramah camp community, services were inspiring, with song and prayer filling the room. Following a wonderful Shabbat dinner with singing of zemirot and birkat hamazon, we all gathered again for a discussion about Tikvah, Breira B’Ramah, and Camp Yofi, Ramah’s programs for children with special needs. Barbara and Herb Greenberg, the founders of the first Tikvah program at Ramah Glen Spey in 1970, spent Shabbat with us as our guests and, together with Ramah New England Tikvah director Howard Blas, spoke about the powerful impact of our programs on the participants with disabilities, their families, the staff, and the entire camp community.

At Shabbat morning services, another guest, Judah Rand-Lakritz, a Ramah Poconos alum, inspired us with a dvar Torah about the importance of inclusion. Judah helps run an amazing program in Israel, preparing children with special needs for bar or bat mitzvah. After lunch, many of us walked over to see the magnificent Ramon crater, a unique vast geological formation, and then the group came together again for an update about the Ramah Camping Movement and some of the plans for future growth and development.

Perhaps the highlight of Shabbat, like in camp, was havdalah. We all returned to the rim of the crater, stood in a circle in the eerie darkness, and blessed the new week. As everyone was singing Eliyahu Hanavi, I couldn’t help but become emotional over the formation of yet another Ramah community–albeit temporary–of new friends, and the commitment of each participant toward our common goals.

Today we returned to biking. We all got a very early start so that we could complete most of the day’s riding by noon due to the severe heat. After a tour of Kibbutz Neot Smadar and a restful lunch break, some riders traveled by bus to Ketura and others rode another 13 km. As we climbed the final mountain pass prior to an exhilarating descent, we all took a break to view the magnificent desert valley of the Arava. (Click here to see today’s bike route.)

Thoroughly exhausted, we enjoyed a restful afternoon and have now regrouped for dinner and relaxation, eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s final ride into Eilat.

We are so pleased to have come so far, both on the road and with our support for this important cause. We will update everyone tomorrow when our journey is complete.

Good night, layla tov, from Kibbutz Ketura in Southern Israel.

Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Ramah Director