In early November, I rode my bicycle over 200 miles from Jerusalem to Eilat as part of The Israel Ride, which supports the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The Institute encourages environmental protection and sustainability, and also works to promote peace in the Middle East. As a recreational cyclist, environmental consultant (and member of TBE’s Green Team), and longtime supporter of peace efforts, this ride was the trifecta!
My ride included long and winding downhills (the longest was 6 miles into Eilat with views of four countries – Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and equally significant climbs. Biking was an incredible way to experience both the beauty and harshness of the landscape. Along the route, I talked with Israeli Jews and Palestinians who work on sustainable farming, renewable energy, and building cross-border connections. We also skyped with a young engineer in Gaza who is working to create solar power capacity to increase access to electricity and water treatment. She is part of the network of environmental professionals that Arava is building.
After the ride, I spent two days at Arava learning more about their research, including efforts in the West Bank to harvest rainwater and recycle grey water to help offset the water supply deficit there. I also toured the Institute’s Off-grid Technology Village, where researchers and students test products, such as a pot that simultaneously boils water and charges electronic equipment and a lightweight solar generator. These devices help populations not connected to their national grids meet their energy, water, and agriculture needs.
Although I have visited Israel many times before to see family and sights, this trip gave me a whole new perspective on the country and the innovative sustainability and peace-building work happening there.