Women making waves

The 2nd annual women’s swim-a-thon across Kinneret will take place next month, raising funds for the mentally challenged.

women making waves_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
women making waves_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The water looked calm, magnificent and inviting at 6:30 a.m. on June 16 last year, as 85 women of all ages, shapes and sizes excitedly walked the short path to the water’s edge. Brightly colored swim caps were dutifully donned, goggles adjusted, words of encouragement shouted by organizers, supporters and participants… and they were off with a splash!
The brainchild of Vivienne Glaser, this first annual women’s swim-a-thon across the Kinneret was the most innovative way she could conjure up to celebrate her 50th birthday, while simultaneously raising much-needed funds for a wide spectrum of mentally challenged youths.
The second annual women’s swim-a-thon will take place on May 25.
Swim 4 Sadnat Shiluv is a fund-raising event on behalf of Sadnat Shiluv, located in the community of Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion.
Sadnat Shiluv encourages maximum integration of people with special needs into the community, from kindergarten up to young adulthood. Thanks to the proceeds of last year’s swim, there is now a second hostel at Sadnat Shiluv, where 12 young adults benefit from a place to live, work, study and lead independent lives, while becoming an active part of the Rosh Tzurim community.
Sadnat Shiluv fosters integration into this mainstream community by inclusion into its social framework as well as religious and daily working life. This, in turn, increases these young adults’ feelings of belonging, and encourages community obligation and responsibility so they can become contributing members of society.
Glaser’s own son Elchanan (Elchie) was a member of the first shiluv (integrated) class of the Sadna’s Reishit school. After a wonderful education in Reishit, and now a member of a productive and happy home in the Sadnat Shiluv program, Elchie is an able resident of the Rosh Tzurim community.
His mother wanted to give other young people the opportunity that Elchie has, so she launched the swim-a-thon to raise money to create two new living spaces for other Sadna students.
But for most of the swim-a-thon participants, it was an appealing opportunity to swim from one shore of the lake to the other.
For some 56 years, swimming enthusiasts, both professional and amateur have been braving its waters in an organized annual Kinneret swim, and it has become one of the largest popular annual sports events in Israel. However, this swim invariably takes place on a Saturday, automatically excluding observant swimmers.
“Women who have always wanted to participate in a Kinneret Swim but were unable to do so because of the mixed swimming or Shabbat scheduling can now join in,” explains the British-born Glaser.
Of course, the event is not only for religious women.
“Today 30 percent of sports events in Israel are for women only. It’s become very trendy,” she says.
Just like last September’s event, this year’s women’s swim offers 3.5-kilometer and 1.5-km. courses.
Ayala Finn, 41, swam the shorter route last year, but has already started training for the longer course for this year’s swim.
“Although I’m a regular swimmer, I’d never swum in anything other than a pool before, so I didn’t know how I would cope with open-water swimming.
Naturally, I worried about swimming against a current and not having the side of the pool to grab onto if I panicked.
“But as it turned out, because we set off so early in the morning, there wasn’t a wave in sight,” says Finn.
On the eve of the swim, Esther Arnon, 23, a student of graphic design at the Emunah Art College, was intending to swim the 1.5-km. route, for which she had trained. However, she was so inspired to see such an enthusiastic group of elderly women chatting excitedly about their aspirations to swim the longer route, that she thought, “If they can do it, then so can I!” And she did. The entire swim took her about 90 minutes, which, she happily admits, was much quicker and easier than she had imagined.
“The bubbly group atmosphere gave me such a boost. I wouldn’t miss this year’s swim for the world!” At the other end of the age spectrum, Sylvia Wallis, 74, who regularly works out and attends weekly Pilates classes, proudly holds the title of “Eldest 2010 Participant.”
“My granddaughter trained me for the swim at Jerusalem’s Olympic-sized pool. After completing just one length at my first training session, I felt as though I’d swum the Kinneret!” she jokes.
On the day before the second annual women’s swim-a-thon, participants, their families, friends, supporters – and, in fact, all women – are encouraged to enjoy a Day of Women’s Health, Sport and Fitness jointly organized by the regional councils of Emek Hayarden and Gush Etzion.
Says volunteer co-ordinator Nina Alon, “This is going to be an affair that will attract women from far and wide, Israelis and Anglos, the young and the notso- young. There will be yoga and dance classes, massages and other treatments aimed at healing body and mind; also booths selling swimwear and other women’s accessories.”
All this, and a musical performance, will take place at the Tzemah Beach between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the beach and water park will be open until 10 p.m.
Buses from all over the country, as well as bed-andbreakfast facilities, will be arranged for swim-a-thon participants, details to be announced nearer the date.
On December 29 last year, much labor came to fruition at an emotional opening ceremony of Beit Nachshon, a residential facility for six learning-disabled youths in Rosh Tzurim.
For these boys, who entertained guests with a musical performance, it was a resounding reaffirmation that the larger community cares and is there for them. A particularly moving moment was when the grandfather of the late Nachshon Porat, a former Sadna student who died more than a year ago and for whom Beit Nachshon is named, affixed a mezuza to the doorpost.
According to swim-a-thon organizer Liz Pushett of Efrat, “Last June, 85 women participated in our inaugural swimming event. It left them feeling inspired and empowered, having fulfilled, for some of them, a lifelong dream of swimming the Kinneret.
“For some, the swim was a building-block on their way to a triathlon event; for others, it was a return to awareness of the importance of keeping fit and looking after their bodies.”
Together, they succeeded in raising over NIS 200,000. This year, they’re hoping to double that figure.
To take the plunge, register at Shvoong: minisites.shvoong.co.il/sadna/index.asp