Hundreds of people are cycling across Israel on the five-day annual “Courage in Motion” ride to raise money for the Beit Halochem (House of Warriors) Rehabilitation Centers, which provide rehabilitation services to disabled veterans.
The ride, which started on Sunday and ends on Thursday, takes participants from Mitzpe Ramon in the South up to the capital of Jerusalem. Along the way, the group stopped to swim in the Dead Sea, had lunch at one of the IDF’s larger bases in the South, and took a night tour of Jerusalem.
There are five different routes for the 100 Canadian, American and British participants and the 120 disabled IDF veterans taking part, including off-roading, touring and extreme cycling. Each participant rides between 50 and 135 kilometers (31-84 miles) daily.
The ride has raised millions of Canadian dollars over the years for Beit Halochem, which has centers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. The centers offer individualized therapies to wounded veterans, as well as sports rehabilitation training and family-oriented activities.
“The Israeli cyclists wait a whole year for us Canadian cyclists to come,” said Brian Barish, who came for the seventh year from Toronto to take part in Courage in Motion.
“It’s not only to bike alongside the vets but to connect with them and hear their stories and honor them,” he said.
“It’s not only to bike alongside the vets but to connect with them and hear their stories and honor them.”Brian Barish
Barish, who is Jewish like most of the participants, told The Jerusalem Post that he hadn’t been to Israel since he was a teenager, and returned after he heard about the ride from friends who are involved in Beit Halochem.
Since then, “I discovered how much it means for the veterans that we come – that we come to show our support for them in person. It’s so much more than just a donation.”
Riding alongside Barish were Jordan Rosenzweig and Marla Buck, two other Canadians who had raised money and came to ride across Israel.
“Once you start going, you become a community,” said Rosenzweig, who has been coming for five years. “And it’s not just about seeing Israel – it’s beyond that. It’s beyond coming as a tourist. We are together, with our friends. It’s beautiful.”
Buck, who is in the midst of moving to Israel from Toronto, explained that the funds raised by participants go directly to Beit Halochem.
“The therapy at Beit Halochem is incredible,” she said. “There are some guys who I met when they were in wheelchairs and now they are walking!”
The centers, she said, “give the veterans a family, a home. It’s a group that you want to belong to. To experience this [ride] puts everything in perspective. The veterans have done so much for the country.”
Training the wounded veteran riders
Israel Hanegbi has been training the wounded veteran riders for eight years.
“I came for the friendships, for the people who contributed so much to the country,” he said.
Hanegbi served in the Sayeret Egoz commando unit before serving in the police for more than 30 years. Although he was not wounded during his service, he told the Post that “I know what they feel, what they went through. To see someone get shot... it’s hard.”
Sports, specifically biking, is therapeutic and helps the veterans “get away from everything and everyone. It’s healthy for the mind,” he said.
This is the 15th year in a row that the ride is taking place, thanks to Beit Halochem Canada executive director Lisa Levy, Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization chairman Adv. Edan Kleiman and Zahal Disabled Veterans Fund executive director Col. (res.) Dr Moshe Shemma.