A guest post from Hazon in New York:
This March 23 – 27 thirty participants from around North America and Israel hiked from the northern tip of Israel to the Sea of Galilee on the first-ever Hike for Israel, to benefit the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, based in Tel Aviv, and Hazon in New York.
Hiker Lisa Enfield, of South Florida, called the hike a “one of a kind experience” and loved the “glorious scenery of the Galilee.”
Donna Kemper and her husband Ron Zlotoff, of Woodbridge, Connecticut, hiked together: “The country is beautiful and you see and learn so much when you see it on foot. You meet wonderful people, some of whom will invariably know people you know,” said Kemper after the hike.
“The experience has been exhilarating, even as it has been exhausting. This has been my most unusual, and in many ways, most memorable visit to Israel in my life. I’ve learned about hiking, gained a new commitment to exercise and fitness, and seen my love of Israel enhanced and deepened,” said Rabbi Mark Cooper of New Jersey.
This fully-supported Hike offered the opportunity to see the stunning Israeli landscape with an inclusive and supportive community of people while learning about sustainability efforts in Israel. The Hike was also a fundraiser – participants paid a registration fee and committed to raising sponsorship that supports the innovative environmental programming of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership and Hazon.
This inaugural Hike began in Ein Aravot, near Nachal Dishon, passed over Mt. Meron, through Tzfat and ended four days later at the Sea of Galilee. The Hike brought together an exceptionally diverse group of people. Participants ages 10 to 75, many denominations of Jewish tradition, and included North Americans as well as Israelis. The hikers were the first international group to hike on a newly opened trail at Nahal Gaf – the only trail connecting the Israel national trail to the trans-Kinneret Circle path.
Francine Weaver, an educator and writer from Boulder, CO, joined the Hike group. “This Hazon-Heschel Hike speaks to me on multiple levels and embraces much in life about which I am passionate: Israel, environmental issues, social justice and a personal physical challenge.”
The primary beneficiary of the Hike, the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, was established to lead Israel to become a society based on renewal of the values of justice and caring for the future of the land and its inhabitants. The Heschel Center trains leading individuals from across the spectrum of Israeli society to become the innovators in the field of sustainability, implementing a vision of an ecologically and socially sustainable future based on inherited values.
The Hike is a partnership between the Heschel Center and Hazon, a non-profit working towards a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community – as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Previous Hazon-sponsored bike rides have raised over $2.4 million for environmental projects in America, Israel and around the world.
High School student Haley Moss, of White Plains, New York, said that the hike was a “fun, really good experience because you learn and connect with the land and with other people.”
“Unlike most other fundraising outdoor events, our goal isn’t simply to raise money but also to create a sense of community and to foster education about the environment,” Nigel Savage, the founder and director of Hazon, said prior to the Hike. “People sign up because they think they’re going to have fun – and they’re right. But once they are there, we bring them into contact with interesting people from different backgrounds. So they have a chance to learn not only about the environment but also from the next generation of pro-environment activists.”