Newsletter

Newsletter 1

Riding4Reform 2010 is a 5-day bike ride that will begin at the Good Fence on the Israel-Lebanon border, the most northern point of Israel. During the 5-day ride, we will pass through various regions seeing the different views of the Golan Heights, Galilee, Jezreel Valley and Ramat Menashe on the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Riding4Reform Newsletter will give you a bit of the the "Ruach" (spirit) of the ride; the sights, the people, the special experience and unique atmosphere.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

1st day of our Ride- March 14, 2010

1st day of our Ride- March 14, 2010

Our 2010 Ride will start in Metula the Northern District of Israel, bordering Lebanon. This Jewish settlement was founded in June 1896 on land bought by the Baron de Rothschild. Our starting point will be at The Good Fence (HaGader HaTova or Fatima Crossing); a border crossing from Metula to Lebanon opened in 1976 and closed in 2000 after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

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A Riders Blog:
Why Do I come back every year.

A Riders Blog:

This spring I'll be joining the Riding4Reform for the 7th time. There are several reasons that I come back every year, the first being that it's fun. To see Israel at its most beautiful when the spring flowers cover the mountains and all of the rivers are flowing is amazing, and to do this with friends creates an unforgettable experience.

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Where will your donations go to?

Where will your donations go to?

As a part of the reorganization of the Education Outreach department of the IMPJ, during 2010 special emphasis will be put on expanding our educational outreach to Diaspora Jewish day schools though the development of various connection programs.

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At the Break of Day - Preparing for a New Beginning
Dvar Torah by Rabbi Ayala Miron

Where will your donations go to?

When does a baby learn to walk? When does a toddler turn into a first grader, marching to school with a loaded backpack? When does a song become part of our lifes melody? And when do we mark the beginning of a new year?

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1st day of our ride- March 14, 2010

Our 2010 Ride will start in Metula the Northern District of Israel, bordering Lebanon. This Jewish settlement was founded in June 1896 on land bought by the Baron de Rothschild. Our starting point will be at The Good Fence (HaGader HaTova or Fatima Crossing); a border crossing from Metula to Lebanon opened in 1976 and closed in 2000 after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Highlight of our first day will be a ride in the Hula Valley, a Bird-watching Lookout and Bird Banding Station. The Hula Valley is one of the most unique regions in northern Israel. Lush, green fields are interspersed throughout the valley surrounded by imposing mountains on the east and the west. The striking black volcanic basalt hills south of the valley slowed down the flow of melted snow and rain from Mt. Hermon creating historic Lake Hula and its surrounding wetlands, which served as a filter for the water flowing into Lake Kinneret.

Background:

Plants and animals thrived in the flourishing, green wetlands making the Hula a naturalists paradise. Life for people, however, was very difficult because of the deadly Anopheles mosquito, which spread malaria through the valley and the lack of suitable soil for farming made living off the land difficult. In the 1950s, in one of the greatest engineering achievements of its time, KKL-JNF drained the swamps. For thirty years agriculture flourished, malaria was gone and the valley prospered. For nature lovers, things were less rosy many of the plant and animal species unique to the valley disappeared forever. Also, over time, new problems surfaced. Much of the soil was only partially suited to farming, and materials washing down from the valley into Lake Kinneret reduced its water quality, threatening Israels main source of drinking water.

In the 1980s KKL-JNF advised the founding members of the Hula Restoration Project on a rehabilitation program for the valley, which would center on the re-flooding of the valley to create Lake Agmon. Careful planning and implementation of the newest land management concepts has transformed the site once again into a haven for birds, a must for eco-tourists and most importantly, has restored the vital filtering process for Lake Kinneret.

Today Lake Agmon occupies part of the area once covered by the original Hula Lake and is today an internationally recognized ornithological site.


A rider's blog: Why do I come back every year.

This spring I'llbe joining the Riding4Reform for the 7th time. There are several reasons that I come back every year, the first being that it's fun. To see Israel at its most beautiful when the spring flowers cover the mountains and all of the rivers are flowing is amazing, and to do this with friends creates an unforgettable experience.

In addition, the importance of a strong Reform Jewish Movement in Israel is of utmost importance. The movement, with its congregations, fills the vacuum for all of those people who need religious services which they could not get elsewhere. The reform congregations and their rabbisare the only address for those in search or need of modern Judaism and are unable to get this in the religious establishment. I'm very proud to be part of this movement.

David Benninga, Founder of the Riding4Reform Rides will be riding this March for the 7th time.


Where will your donations go?

As a part of the reorganization of the Education Outreach department of the IMPJ, during 2010 special emphasis will be put on expanding our educational outreach to Diaspora Jewish day schools though the development of various connection programs.

Following the merger with Lokey center, the IMPJ will lead a unique program developed by the Leo-Baeck education center, "Yachdav" (Together as One). The program is a school-to-school program for young students in Israeli public elementary schools and Jewish day schools/Sunday schools in the Diaspora. The program consists of virtual get-togethers enabling participants to get to know each other, develop group and personal connections and establish friendships. These encounters will introduce Israeli children to issues such as being a minority, the need for self-definition regarding your Jewish identity and more. Children in the Diaspora will learn about the reality of living in Israel and get an opportunity to make new Israeli friends.

In 2010 we anticipate that some 30 schools will take part in this program. Proceeds from the Riding4Reform bike ride will help us expand and develop Reform presence in Israeli society exposing Israelis to the liberal egalitarian option.


At the Break of Day - Preparing for a New Beginning

Dvar Torah by Rabbi Ayala Miron

When does a baby learn to walk?

When does a toddler turn into a first grader, marching to school with a loaded backpack?

When does a song become part of our lifes melody?

And when do we mark the beginning of a new year?

These are the questions that preoccupy me during the month of Elul, on the verge of a new year, a little before the preparations for the High Holidays reach their peak. When and how do we make way for the gates to open?

Questions relating to the fine outlines of time, the meaning of time and the ebbs and flows of times deeply engaged our sages during the eras of Mishna and Talmud. One of the most pronounced questions concerning time appears right at the opening of Berachot (blessings) Tractate in the Mishna: "At which point in the evening may one start reciting the Shema?" (Berachot 1:1) In other words, according to the Jewish timetable, when do we mark the break of a new day?

Choosing to open the tractate with this question calls for clarification. The Talmudic sages rely on two central biblical sources to offer their explanation: the creation story in Genesis, where the verse concluding the work of each day states: And there was evening and there was morning (Genesis 1:5) on one hand, and the words of the Shem'a call, stating and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:7) on the other.

Let us go a little beyond these traditional answers and draw our attention to the quality of dusk, when the day makes way for the night to enter, and the night covers the earth with its soothing tranquility. At this time, just when the last rays of sun finally disappear, "the sky purifies itself from the light" says the Rambam, based on the detailed regulations of thanksgiving at the temple. Just at the point when, according to Rambam, the world purifies itself from the daily hassle and bustle, deep into the dark mysteries of the night, a new and different quality creates itself, opening an aperture that allows us to listen to our hearts' secret whispers while it plots the events of the day to come. Rabbi Shimon Ben Hassida refers to this special and mysterious quality when he tells a story about King David: So said R. Aha b. Bizana in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: A harp was hanging above David's bed. As soon as midnight arrived, a northern wind came and blew upon it and it played itself. He arose immediately and studied the Torah till the break of dawn (Berachot 3b).

The issue of time change is also concealed, in different shapes and forms, in the undercurrent of the sages' dialogue about the beginning of a new year in the Jewish calendar. Again, the core question is: when do we mark the break of a new year?

Over two of the four chapters of Rosh Hashanah (literally: head of the year) tractate in the Mishna deal with the sanctification of the new month as related to the re-appearance of the new moon. From the Mishnaic deliberation we learn that in the midst of the complete darkness of a moonless night, the witnesses go out searching for the moon crescent, annunciating the beginning of a new month and, in the case of the month of Tishrei, the entry of a new year. After seeing the new crescent the witnesses appear before the High Court in Jerusalem, and based on their testimony the court sanctifies the month and sends the messengers to announce it to the Diaspora. The chief of the tribunal [court] then said, the feast of the new moon is mekoodash [consecrated]; and all the people said after him, Mekoodash, mekoodash (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 2:7)

Yoma (literally: the day) Tractate, dealing with Yom Kippur, the Day of Awe, also starts by describing the preparations for the day itself, concentrating on the twenty-four hours before the actual beginning of Yom Kippur's sacred work. During the night preceding Yom Kippur, scholars read before the High Priest the details of the work he will be performing the next day, keeping him busy so that he would not fall asleep, until it is time for the Tamid (constant) sacrifice, the first offering of the day (Yoma, Chapter 1:6)

Reading this tractate, which devotes seven out of its eight chapters to the details of the sanctified work of the High Priest, we learn again that the work does not begin at the actual breaking of the day but long before that, during the High Priest's sleepless night.

Here too much attention is given to the exact moment of day break: The Superintendent used to say to them: go out and see whether the time for slaughtering has come. If it has come, the one who saw it said: (Barqai) It becomes light (Yoma, Chapter 3, 43)

When we study these curious descriptions to learn about the spiritual platform that makes a new beginning possible, we find that the arrival of everything new relies on our ability to sit and watch, at the dark of night, for the first rays of light. It relies on our willingness to remain, to stay still, to linger, waiting, expecting and hoping.

The willingness to stop, to stay, to watch and wait in front of the closed gates is what causes the gates to finally open. This is also the way a baby learns to walk after much preparation and deliberation; he is suddenly ready to make the first step. And this is also why first graders learn to read during Hanukkah vacation and swimmers to swim during the winter months, as teachers and swimming instructors tell us.

I believe we can apply this insight offered to us by the sages to our own life's journeys. Our journey does not necessarily start with the actual, visible, first step - it starts long before it, at twilight, at the dark of night when the first hints, ideas, intentions, are beginning to take form, during the hours in which the expectations and the fervor start to build up.

We can also apply this insight to our yearly bicycle ride, Riding for Reform. I can certainly say that the preparations for the ride begin at the conclusion of the previous ride. They start with informal conversations between the riders about their experiences and expectations. They start by collecting feedback and suggestions, and they also start with visualizing: visualizing ourselves pulling this challenge together again, recalling our reasons for doing it each time as if it was our first.

I can also testify first hand that since the route preparations start in Israel's summer months, the first exploration of the route begins before day break to avoid the mid-day heat: before dawn, a small group of devoted riders load their bicycles on their cars and drive to the starting point, just like the work of the High Priest in the temple.

There's also much to prepare when you take the decision to join the ride. Getting away for a whole week is not easy, neither is the challenge of finding sponsorship and, of course, the physical training (some need less of it, others a lot more).

There is no doubt that all these preparations bear their satisfying fruits in the ride itself. Everyone who has been part of the ride knows that it is not only a great chance to explore unknown and breathtaking corners of the country, or give us insights about the meaningful work of the IMPJ; like a real journey, it also grants us an opportunity to discover something about ourselves.

 

Rabbi Ayala Miron is the spiritual leader of Bavat Ayin in Rosh Haayin and is a veteran Riding4Reform rider.