Cycling In Israel

01 Jun
Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015

Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015

Over the past twenty years I’ve spent a good deal of time photographing archaeological sites in the Levant (the countries of the eastern Mediterranean—Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, etc.). Unfortunately, camera equipment leaves little room for cycling gear, so I have rarely had the opportunity to ride a bike in the countries I visit, though I have occasionally been able to rent a cheap bike from a hotel. I just got back from Israel—and while I didn’t see a lot of cyclists there, I did run into some folks associated with the Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015. This fundraising effort supports special needs programs for individuals with Down Syndrome, Autism, and a variety of other developmental and physical disabilities.

Judging from the bikes I saw these folks riding, most of them were not avid cyclists, but their dedication was remarkable! I met some of the riders at the ancient site of Gamla in the western Golan Heights—it was 104 degrees in the shade! As I was walking toward the archaeological site I saw several young women in cycling jerseys coming towards me—I asked if any of them spoke English and was surprised when they answered “yes.” Two lovely young women told me about their fundraising efforts and I told them I much I envied them for being able to ride in such a remarkable place! Apparently their group had stopped at this site because it was one of the few places in that area that had semi-proper restrooms available. Gamla is now a national park in Israel and a great place watch Griffon vultures as they catch the updrafts from the nearby cliffs where they nest.

A Roman Catapult Overlooking Ancient Gamla

A Roman Catapult (Scorpio) Overlooking Ancient Gamla (the Sea of Galilee is in the background)

By the way, if you have never heard of Gamla before don’t feel bad—unless you are a student of either Roman military history or Jewish history you’re probably not going to read about Gamla in your normal course of events. For the record, Gamla was the site of a month-long Roman siege during the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 67 (or, if you are Jewish, the Great Revolt of 67 C.E.). Over 9,000 Jews died at Gamla—a place where the unstoppable might of Vespasian’s legions met the heroic zeal of the Jews. Rome won that round (but their empire has long since been laid to rest).

In the next article I will get back to publishing product reviews!


Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Life On Two Wheels


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50 responses to “Cycling In Israel

  1. ATdF

    June 1, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    from -104° normally at your home…to +104°…nice to hear (-;

  2. ragtimecyclist

    June 1, 2015 at 1:53 PM

    Wow, pretty spectacular (if a tad warm) spot for cycling. Must and admit Gamla is a new one on me.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 1, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      It would be a great place for cycling if you are headed down towards the Sea of Galilee, but the climb from the Sea to Gamla would kill me (not to mention the insane heat).

  3. lampenj

    June 1, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    My wife & I spent 16 days touring Israel with a Michigan guy by the name of Ray VanderLaan where we spent much of it in Galilee. It was a beautiful country with some of the most gruesome history I’ve ever seen (the artifacts and remains).
    I had googled biking in Israel before I left, too, but ended up not having even a spare hour to consider riding. Looked like there could be plenty of great opportunity there, though.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 1, 2015 at 5:23 PM

      The only problem with cycling in Israel would be the narrow roads (and the drivers).

  4. elisariva

    June 1, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    Great to read and happy you are blogging again!

  5. Chatter Master

    June 1, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    A nice diversion! And thanks for a little extra education, never hurts to learn more. 🙂

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 1, 2015 at 10:27 PM

      Just don’t get me started talking about life in the Ancient Near East (I am a blast at parties).

      • Sandra

        June 2, 2015 at 8:22 AM

        I would love that. Dare you. 😉

      • Chatter Master

        June 2, 2015 at 11:31 AM

        Actually this sounds like GREAT talk for a party. 🙂 Beats the talk I often hear. 🙂

  6. bgddyjim

    June 1, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    Glad your back my friend. You were missed… Now we can get back to getting properly kitted up again. Amazing post.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 1, 2015 at 10:27 PM

      Thank you—and I am all ready to start talking about pedals and such again!

  7. Sue Slaght

    June 1, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    Like others have said so wonderful to see you back. I hope you had a marvellous vacation.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 1, 2015 at 10:43 PM

      Glad to be back—it it wasn’t a vacation—it’s what I do for a living.

  8. Sandra

    June 2, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    Gamla, eh? I studied Masada and have ALWAYS wanted to go there. This part of the world has a fascinating history and one of the reasons I became a history prof. :-). Mostly Ancient Greece and Rome, but wow. :-). And I have to say it is heartwarming to hear positive stories out of this region for a change. If one would only learn about this region by the news, one would think no place is safe.

    I also want to see the place from the charge of the light brigade and the ancient cities at Troy. Thank you Heinrich Schliemann!

    So glad to have you back. Cannot wait to see your posts on a regular basis.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      Masada is a fascinating place to visit, but as the Roman general Silva learned, it is surrounded by water without a drop to drink! As for Troy, I visited there five years ago (didn’t see Helen though). The world owes a debt to Schliemann, but excavating archaeological sites with dynamite is still frowned upon.

      • Sandra

        June 4, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        Agreed. Archaeology was definitely in its infancy then. Not to mention that he took so many treasures as personal items and shipped them away from their home.

        But i have to admire someone who could learn so many different languages on his own, with only different translations of the Iliad as a tool. Still one of my favorites of all times. 🙂

        Thanks for a great post, and reminding me of the best teacher in the world.

  9. Jeff Katzer

    June 2, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    104 degrees… Too hot for me!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Yeah, it wasn’t exactly pleasant for me either — when I left home it was only in the 40’s and 104 was a shock to my system.

  10. billgncs

    June 2, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    cool – interesting job. Maybe you need a fold-up commuter bike ? This weekend I’m off to ride in South Dakota along the Michelson trail.

    • mrperkins

      June 2, 2015 at 11:50 PM

      I think the commuter bike is a good idea. I have SERIOUSLY considered one.

      • billgncs

        June 3, 2015 at 9:18 AM

        I’m at the point in the bike equation where the number of bikes a man can have is s – 1 where s= the point at which your wife puts her foot down…

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:53 AM

      I really wish I could take a commuter bike, but there just isn’t enough room (I sometimes have to travel in a rented compact car with other people).

      • billgncs

        June 4, 2015 at 10:29 AM

        do you ever post about your shoots ? I’d love to see some. I think we are all a bit of a history buff.

  11. mrperkins

    June 2, 2015 at 11:50 PM

    My daughter is going there in September to study for about ten months at Tomer Devorah in Jerusalem. Lots of friends and family there.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      I presume you mean the seminary, not the book written by Moses Cordovero. Ten months in Jerusalem would be awesome—you will never run out of sites to see there!

  12. christov10

    June 3, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    I spent some in Israel in the 1980’s; sadly, at the time, my only interests were alcohol and the inhibition-free activities it fueled. Beautiful place. I especially liked the north of the country. There’re a few apparently serious mountain bikers over there who post on the Facebook page Look at My Bike Leaning Up Against Stuff.

    Awesome that your time in that part of the world is spent in useful and intelligent activity.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:54 AM

      I saw a few mountain bikers in the north, but even more towards the Dead Sea—you would have to be VERY dedicated to ride in that terrain.

  13. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    June 3, 2015 at 7:04 AM

    Glad you’re back safe! Reminded me of the story you shared about the bike ride in Greece. Was it The Parthenon? Can’t remember. But it was a good story–after the fact you ended up safe! I’ve been a bit lax on the bike. Need your posts to get me back out.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      Close—it was Izmir, Turkey (Biblical Smyrna). One of the most terrifying rides of my life! And I do hope you get back on the bike soon!

  14. rantsrulesandrecipes

    June 3, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    How incredible! Very cool you’re getting to travel and document such a historical part of our world!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      I enjoyed being there, but hated the long plane ride home (thank goodness for Ambien CR).

  15. timscyclingblog

    June 4, 2015 at 5:59 AM

    Now that is a bike rack. In the olden days the trains had cycle carriages with hooks to hang your bike from. Now we are in the Brompton age where full sized bikes are spat upon. I spit upon those clown bike cyclist (only joking) and avoid trains (always choosing work close to home).

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 4, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      I’ve never tried to take a bike on a train—but here in the Chicago area I see other people do it all the time.

  16. jeffjacobsen

    June 4, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    Really good to see a side of you off your bikes. Thanks for the interesting story.

  17. bobleponge216

    June 5, 2015 at 3:00 PM

    I spent 18 months working in Lebanon, and regularly went across into Israel. I did a bit of cycling in and around Gamla (I’m a roadie normally but rode an MTB around there. Happy memories reading this post.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 5, 2015 at 5:09 PM

      A marvelous area of the world! But after the six months of a Chicago winter the sun was a bit hard to handle!

      • bobleponge216

        June 6, 2015 at 3:30 AM

        Northern French winters aren’t much easier, but I just LOVE the sun and the whole Levant, beautiful place.

  18. Jean

    July 18, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    Actually it be great if you had some blog posts about your travels in the Middle East.

  19. Jason Pearlman

    April 28, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    Glad that you enjoyed riding in my favorite place in the world! If you happen to be a fan of pro cycling, be sure to follow the Cycling Academy Team, which is Israel’s first pro cycling team. The roster currently includes three national champions, two American riders, and host of international talent, and the team recently made a big splash at the Tour of Croatia.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      Thanks for the info about the Cycling Academy Team — I had not noticed them. I am watching the Tour of Turkey right now on the CyclingTV app. I am also planning on going back to Jerusalem for a few week next spring.

      • Jason Pearlman

        April 28, 2016 at 11:38 AM

        The team is still at domestic pro level, but they plan on bumping up to continental pro level, and they’ve had invited to some pretty big races, including last year’s Tour de San Luis and the U.S. Pro Challenge, and this year at the Settimana Coppi e Bartoli.

        BTW, be sure to sample Israel’s awesome craft beers in addition to their world-class wine. As for the food, the restaurants are great, but the real find is the incredible street food. Make time to visit Zichron Ya’akov, just north of Tel Aviv, for a real culinary treat!

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          April 28, 2016 at 12:25 PM

          On this trip I will be spending the entire time in Jerusalem visiting sites I’ve not been able to see before (I am an archeological museum geek).


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