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Cycling 200 Israeli miles: Galilee, Golan and Jerusalem

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By Jay Jacobson (member since the 1990's)

My 28th Backroads company bike tour was their new “Israeli Premiere Inn Trip” May 26-June 2. I rated it “superior” in all aspects.  This amazing country has improved in many ways since my previous visit thirteen years ago.   Its people seemed to be friendlier and happier.  Many of them were on two wheels, even on the two Saturdays we were there.

The roads are in better condition than those here in Bergen and Rockland Counties, perhaps because there isn’t much freezing weather there.  Among other infrastructure improvements I noticed were better insect control.

The three hotels and one kibbutz which were our homes during this period were outstanding and comparable to the best hotels in the United States or Europe.  The cuisine
and local wines have both come a long way over the years.

The terrain we encountered was moderately hilly with about 3 long climbs.  The weather was excellent—warm and sunny with no rain at all. For the most part Israeli drivers were considerate and gave us space and priority on the road.

Our cycling group was comprised of 21 interesting people from all US regions and four
Mexicans, roughly half male and female, The ages ranged from teens to seventies with an average in the low fifties.  About half were Jewish.  There were five couples and eleven solo travellers.

Tour leaders  Stephani and Tal were highly qualified.   They alternated between cycling with us and driving a support vehicle.  We were given detailed cue sheets and could cycle with them, alone or with one or more other riders. There were long and short daily options which typically totaled from 20 to 60 miles daily. The local Israeli guide, Shlomo, was an excellent cyclist and shared his deep knowledge of his country with us as we rode. There were at least three additional guides and support people who drove sag wagons and a large and comfortable air conditioned bus which transferred us through heavily trafficked areas or carried tired cyclists through hilly stretches if they wished.  The staff which who spoke Hebrew and English gave us insights into archeological, political, military, historical, religious and cultural points of interest along the cycling route.

I was charged about $7000 for the 8 day/7 night itinerary.  This included a single room supplemental fee, use of a well maintained high quality titanium bike, most meals which featured Continental and Middle Eastern dishes, entrance to parks, museums, wine tastings, etc.  Backroads is not known as “Snackroads” for nothing—from the sumptuous breakfast buffets to the food and drink stops they set up along the route there was always plenty of fuel for our pedaling legs.  Not included was air fare, a few meals and some tips and beverages.  It might sound like a lot of money, but what would a visitor to New York pay each day for a comparable trip with this level of service, facilities and amenities?
           
Our arrival in Jerusalem was planned to coincide with the commencement of Shabbat Friday evening.  There was an aura of excitement and electricity as the faithful throngs at the Western Wall as sundown approached.  Then we were treated to a traditional Shabbat dinner at the home of a woman chef. We cycled out of Jerusalem with light vehicular traffic on Saturday morning as Shlomo pointed out various government and institutional buildings.
On the last day we had a three hour walking tour of the historic city and its houses of worship, which is very important in the history of three major religions.

There was evidence of the continuing tense relations Israel has had for many years with its neighbors.  We cycled along the Syrian and Jordanian borders and in the West Bank near barbed wire fences, gun emplacements and tanks and through a military base.  Young Israeli  male and female soldiers toting machine guns were seen everywhere.   Hopefully some day this situation will improve and  the spirit of  Shalom will prevail.

Contact the writer at: [email protected]

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