This report is little about cycling and much about encounters along the way. That’s a good thing, as this exactly was my plan: at least until March, I want to stay in Jordan and Israel and bridge the cold season. Since both countries can be travelled quickly by bicycle, I would like to spend much time alongside the road. Especially for Israel, that seems to me to be appropriate: One could traverse this country from north to south within a short week; how many interesting places, stories and people would you miss though!
Start in Tel AvivThe plan for the next weeks stands. But where exactly should I meet the people, where to stop? At least I know with my arrival in Tel Aviv, that I can spend the first few days with Lewin and Nathanael, friends from Switzerland. In addition, my sister-in-law made contact with a family in Haifa where she worked as an au pair (this “I know someone who knows someone strategy” should prove itself several times). I would also be able to visit them. Nothing else is certain yet. But I am quite relaxed. The experience of the past few weeks has taught me that new contacts quickly arise and doors open when I just get myself on my saddle and meet the environment open-minded.
On the way to HaifaAfter the very nice days with friends, I set off to the north to explore Israel not only from the car window, but also from the “Velospektive”, the perspective from the bike. The next destination is Haifa and my sister-in-law’s au pair family. I plan to cover the 100 kilometers in two days and be open for any stopovers.
Christians in HaifaIn Haifa, Tina, Simon and their three children welcome me. At their house I can wash my clothes again. I also accompany them on Saturday (Sabbath) to worship in their congregation. What a special experience! The church is made up of many “Messianic Jews” (Jews who believe in Christ as the Messiah) as well as Christians from all over the world. They sing songs in Hebrew, and also the sermon is in the local language, but translated into English by headphones. I can finally follow a worship service again.
Gasoline for my bikeAll these encounters would overwhelm me after a short term under normal circumstances. But I realize that after the time in solitude and the many days on the saddle, I am particularly receptive. As I tell this to Simon, he expresses it with a picture that I like: loneliness prepares me for meeting people, these encounters in turn provide for “gasoline” and more miles on the bike; all the faces and stories keep me busy for hours as I pedal monotonously.
Swabians in IsraelAfter the many encounters in Haifa it is therefore necessary to burn petrol, that is: to cycle. Yet I don‘t have a lot of distance to do so, already in Zikhron Ya’akov only 30 kilometers south of Haifa new hosts are awaiting me. Simon told me about Christians from Korntal, who immigrated to Israel since the 60s and live there in a kind of kibbutz. “That sounds exciting!”, I say, which makes Tina and Simon immediately calling friends in the kibbutz who cordially invite me.
Unscheduled stopoverAfter three days among Germans I have fueled a lot of “gasoline”. I plan to cycle directly to Jerusalem via Tel Aviv to finally set a longer distance. Halfway to Tel Aviv, however, something happens to me I have never experienced before: Somehow a small piece of sand makes it under my right eyelid and does not leave even after repeated rinsing. My eye hurts increasingly, soon I can only drive with one eye opened. In addition, rain sets in.
Religion everywhereFor some visitors of this country it might be self-evident, but I am only now becoming aware of it by looking back: With cycling through Israel, I am confronted with my own beliefs and convictions in a variety of ways. I meet many Christians with whom I can sing and pray along, but because of very different cultures and biographies, they do so very differently than I am used to. I try to verify everything and keep the good.
Holy Land ChallengeBack to cycling: After the forced but nice stopover in Tel Aviv, I finally get back onto my bike to cycle to Jerusalem. As I already did from Haifa, I plan to follow the Holyland Challenge Bikepacking route. This track leads you over rough paths 1400 km from the Hermon in the north to Eilat in the south.