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.
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!