Two Israelis, two wheels, two eyes

Cyclists Roei Sadan and Orly Tal spent two weeks biking together in Australia on his ‘Dream with Open Eyes’ tour – and she’s blind.

cyclists share bike 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cyclists share bike 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the four years that Roei “Jinji” Sadan has bicycled across the world as Israel’s informal ambassador on two wheels, he’s faced many challenges: losing all of his gear in a robbery in Mexico, biking day after day in an empty desert in Uzbekistan, getting hit by a car twice and leaving behind a woman he loved in Peru to continue with his journey. He’s also seen some of the most beautiful scenery the planet has to offer, experienced hospitality and friendships in the most unlikely places, and once even ate cat in a festive meal with a village chief in Africa.
But none of these highs or lows has come close to the experience Sadan just completed: biking for two weeks in Australia with blind rider Orly Tal.
Sadan’s 80,000-km., multi-year bicycle odyssey started as a year-long post-army trip, but once he started, he just wanted to keep going. Halfway through his tour, he returned to Israel to meet with Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, to assist with contacts at embassies where the biker regularly makes presentations, and hammer out a sponsorship deal with the Mei Eden bottled water company. Sadan has received considerable press coverage for his journey, which he calls “Dream with Open Eyes,” and his message is simple: to encourage people to follow their dreams.
Tal, an accomplished cyclist, started a group of 10 athletes with disabilities who ride tandem bicycles.
She has toured extensively within Israel as well as in France, Romania, Croatia and the US. The 49-yearold started going blind at age two, and was totally blind by her teens.
She read about Sadan in the newspaper and wanted to join him for part of his journey in Asia in 2009, but was hit by a car while biking in Israel and was seriously injured, forcing her to push off her trip until last month. She caught up with Sadan in Australia for the 1,000-km. classic bike route from Adelaide to Melbourne, which includes the Great Ocean Road, a seaside highway.
For the first time in four years, Sadan left his trusty steed – a blue-and-white, steel-frame hybrid Thorn touring bike named Emunah, which regularly carries 35 kilos of gear – and instead traveled on Tal’s tandem bicycle for two weeks.
“The ride with Jinji adds to his message, and shows that also people with one disability or another can see a lot and dream and do whatever is possible to realize their dreams,” says Tal by phone from Australia, where she has set up camp with Sadan and friend Asaf, who is carrying their gear in a camper.
“It’s nice to see how I can see more with another person, even though she’s blind,” Sadan adds. “It’s not only the landscape, she’s helping me see myself.”
For Sadan, the biggest challenge has been sharing the road. After four years riding solo or picking up partners for short portions, riding with another person is “totally different,” says Sadan. “It’s kind of like being in a relationship,” he jokes.
Sadan and Tal are bringing a unique kind of Israeli diplomacy to the farthest corners of the world, places where the government’s slick pro-Israel advocacy campaigns never penetrate, and most people have never met a real live Israeli before. Sadan has joked that when people hear he’s Israeli, they’re surprised to see he has no M-16.
He expects to finish his journey in the fall before the holidays, and invites the entire public to cycle with him to the Western Wall, where he will end his ride.
After arriving in Melbourne in late June, the pair participated in a mega-event commemorating five years since IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped.
Sadan also plans on giving presentations on his journey to the Jewish community and other schools in Australia, both to share his experiences and to encourage everyone to follow their own dreams.
Tal and Sadan are the type who say, “Go for it!” without letting logistics or doubt hold them back. Tal struggled to raise the more than $10,000 she needed to travel to Australia to take part in Sadan’s informal diplomacy initiative.
With all the years he’s been on the road, Sadan has no shortage of stories, but he knows riding with Tal will stand out in his mind forever.
“This is more amazing than another mountain or another desert,” he says. “I’m really proud to be a part of this kind of journey. I’ve been all over the world, and usually I’m doing it for myself, but with Orly I can give more.”
Donations can be made to the pair’s journey by contacting Sadan through his website,, or