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Cycle for Hope

June 1, 2010

by: Daniel Kirchhevel, International Projects Coordinator

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As I checked out the Web site of the sponsoring organization, Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital (ICTP)—an organization that Bridges for Peace helps through our Victims of War fund—my enthusiasm increased.

ICTP helps Israelis deal with trauma—whether a young soldier, a new immigrant adjusting to a new language and culture, or a resident of Sderot (near the Gaza border) suffering from constant rocket attacks. I felt that if I could help in some way to bring hope, healing, and restoration, it would be worth all the training I had to do for the event, as well as having to endure the hot sun in the day and the cold at night as I cycled.

Each rider had to raise US $2,000. Most of that came from Bridges for Peace, but I also posted my sponsorship page to Facebook and sent out e-mails to my friends. I started riding every day and even went cycling out of town to get used to distance cycling. Josh, a friend of mine from England who is a professional cyclist, gave me a few pointers for distance cycling, like “eat a lot of pasta before the event.”

A Three-Day Trek

Among the 16 cyclists, was a 12-year-old with his father and a 70-year-old Holocaust survivor! The total ride would cover 250 kilometers (155 miles). Other less adventurous cyclists joined us for the last day’s ride. The route started from Jerusalem and ended at the Negev Desert’s Mitzpe Ramon, the site of one of the largest craters in the world.

The first day we cycled out of Jerusalem, it was a cloudy morning, so we kept cool as we cycled up and down the Jerusalem hills out of town. We cycled along an old Roman road paved with original stones and stopped along the way to see a first-century home with much of the mosaic floor still intact. After lunch, we continued to Kibbutz Sade Yoav where we spent the night. I made many friends and was very impressed at how the Jewish people band together to support a good cause and to help each other. I actually felt great after the 80-kilometer (50-mile) day! It was the first time that I cycled with a group and experienced the feeling of being streamlined (when cyclists form a line and the one in front takes the full force of the wind and all the other cyclists have an easier time without the resistance of the wind).

The second day, we cycled to Sderot and visited the “Parent’s Place,” a center where families learn how to cope with a life of siren warnings and rocket attacks. From there, we continued on to Massabbi Sadi, where we stayed overnight. After the longest stretch of the trip, 110 kilometers (68 miles), we were welcomed with a BBQ in the works.

Professor Danny Brom, founding director of ICTP, spoke about the work of “Peace of Mind,” the program for combat soldiers. Then a soldier who went through the program shared about his experience during the Second Lebanon War, how he lost a close friend and others in his unit, and how he felt that no one was interested in what he had gone through. He was part of a group of young men that ICTP sent to a Jewish community in Italy. Within this neutral environment, under the guidance of professional psychologists, these young men began to heal as they started talking openly about their experiences.

I have friends in the military and have heard their stories of how they have to make quick life-and-death decisions, see their friends die before their eyes and still carry on fighting, and then carry on living. I learned how this program helps them reenter civilian life. This is truly a wonderful work.

The third day was the hottest of the three days. I had chosen to do the “off road challenge,” so I switched to a mountain bike and saw southern Israel up close and personal with the rocks and the goats and sheep being herded by the resident Bedouins. I took more time to just look around and admire the vast beauty of God’s creation surrounding me. The “off road” group joined the others, and we finished together. It was a great feeling when I finally arrived at the finish line and saw two BFP volunteers waiting for me with balloons and cake!

A Worthwhile Effort

I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish, since I only started training a month before, but I did, and I enjoyed it, knowing that I was doing something to bring comfort and healing to thousands of Israelis in need of trauma counseling. I really enjoyed the comradeship that developed within the group and made many new friends. I did not go with the intention of getting fit, but I guess that just naturally happens on such a ride. If given the opportunity, I would do it again. The Bible says, “Comfort my people.” To think that I have helped bring comfort and healing to someone by cycling for three days makes all the effort worthwhile.

Photo Credit: Photos by www.israelforhope.org/Carl Hochhauser

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