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Get pumped for Israel

Take your ride out of the spin studio and hit the Negev trails

Participants at the Tour de Summer Camps, a cycling fund-raiser for camp scholarships. Photos courtesy Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ
Participants at the Tour de Summer Camps, a cycling fund-raiser for camp scholarships. Photos courtesy Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ

It’s time to put the pedal to the metal — in Israel! In Cycling2Gether — an eight-day cycling trip in Israel starting Feb. 16, 2019 — participants from the United States and Israel will bike through the Negev. The event is a project of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether, and its Negev Israel
Partnerships.

Sandy Green, the federation’s director of Global Connections, said that the key goal of the event is for participants “to feel connected to Israel [and] to feel connected to the federation. We want them to understand how and why the federation is connected to the Negev, and why it’s a value of ours to be connected to Israel.

“We hope this will be the first of many experiences and encounters that our participants will have with the federation.”

The cyclists will spend half of each day riding (except for Shabbat) and the other half learning about the local federation partnerships. Home hospitality will be provided by Israeli participants from the communities of Ofakim/Merchavim, Arad, and Erez.

“Cycling has become an exciting way to bring new groups together in a way we have never done before,” said federation executive vice president/CEO Dov Ben-Shimon. He cited the first Tour de Summer Camps, which took place April 29 on the College of Saint Elizabeth campus in Morristown, as an example of cycling’s popularity. That event, comprised of bike rides of different lengths, organized by the federation in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, raised more than $430,000 for summer camp grants and scholarships. Also participating were Israelis from Cycling2Gether who will also take part in the February ride.

Dov Ben-Shimon, center, with Tour de Summer Camps participants.

One of the Cycling2Gether participants is Jon Ulanet of Fanwood, a member of the federation’s board of trustees and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ. Ulanet has been on 18 trips to Israel since 1973. He described the February venture as “not just another trip to Israel” as it will involve personal interactions with Israelis who live in the southern region of the country.

Ulanet considers himself an avid road biker — he cycled 280 miles from Jerusalem to Eilat in October 2017 — but the trip is open to beginning riders as well. In Israel the group will be led by experienced cyclists; the trails will be wide and easy to navigate.

Greater MetroWest participants will be required to attend five workshops in advance of the trip; the first one will be held Monday, Nov. 5.

“Federation believes that our shared partnership with communities in the Negev is one of the most important things we do,” said Ben-Shimon, “and our ability to have different layers of experience creates new levels of meaning and community.”

His biggest wish, he said, is “that people end this experience with a new understanding and appreciation of how we can work together and how we can build up strong emotional communal ties together.” He also emphasized the importance of creating strong connections to Israel, “which helps both Israel and our community,” and added that face-to-face interaction is the best way to build those connections.

The Cycling2Gather participation fee of $1,200 includes round-trip flight and land costs, plus educational workshops. For information, contact Sandy Green at sgreen@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-3070.


Evan Glotzer is a senior at Winston Preparatory School in Whippany. He was an intern through federation’s JTeen’s SeniorITIS program.

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