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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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Israel bike tour to help kids’ hearts

Tags: Health
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Michael Engels

MONTREAL — An avid Montreal cyclist last weekend unveiled a “tip-to-tip” five-day bike ride through Israel this fall that will help five Third World children receive much-needed heart surgery in Israel.

Michael Engels said it is hoped that the Holy Land Ride for Hearts will draw up to a busload of 50 cyclists from Canada and the United States to Israel.

They will start off at Mount Hermon in the north on Oct. 1 and reach the finish in Eilat on Oct. 6 – a distance of 550 kilometres.

In between, with elevations undulating and descending, they will make stops at the Sea of Galilee, transverse the Harod Valley to Jerusalem, then pedal on to the Dead Sea, Sde Boker in the Negev and finally down to Eilat.

They will experience some of the most spectacular and varied landscapes in the world.

“There have been other fundraising bicycle events in Israel, but I believe this is the first one ever going ‘tip to tip,’” Engels said last week in a telephone interview with The CJN. “It may exist, but I don’t know of any.

“We expect to see the country in a way it’s never been seen before.”

Engels is leading the effort. The other members of the co-ordinating committee are also experienced riders: fellow Montrealer, and Engels’ cousin, Jeremy Engelberg; another Montreal native, Maryn Madoff, who is currently residing in Toronto, and Jonathan (J.J.) Feifer of New York City.

They have spent the past months planning the event and last weekend’s official launch, when the ride’s website, www.holylandride.com, went online.

Engels is thrilled about it. A 33-year-old real estate professional who has always stayed fit, he has been cycling for four years, taken assorted biking trips to Europe, and been to Israel four times previously, including March of the Living and Birthright Israel trips.

But this will mark the first time he and participants will be touring all of Israel from head to toe on two pedals.

Engels said after the idea for the ride was conceived, it took a while to link it to a good cause.

“We conducted a real search,” Engels said, adding that Feifer’s girlfriend is a doctor who suggested the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon.

The centre is affiliated with Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), an Israeli-based international humanitarian project (www.saveachildsheart.com) aimed at improving “the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries” with heart disease.

Ride organizers met with SACH supporters at its Toronto branch, and, “it really appealed to us,” Engels said. “It will shine a new light on what Israel is doing for the benefit of the rest of the world.

“We plan to raise $50,000.”

The organizing group has been working out the details of the trip with the help of a specialist in Israel in the field, Genesis Cycling (www.genesiscycling.com).

The trip is open to people of all ages, with participants divided into “advanced” and “leisure” riders. Each group will cover different amounts of ground but start off from the same location each day. Even non-cycling friends or relatives of riders are eligible to be on the bus if they register and pay the same as the cyclists.

The tour fee covers accommodations, meals, guides and travel within Israel, including a flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv. International flights are not included, and participants must provide their own bikes. Those who sign up before April 30 pay a lower tour fee.

Each cyclist must guarantee that he/she will raise a minimum of $3,000 for the cause by the time the trip gets underway, or the balance goes on the participant’s credit card.

Engels said a decision was made to cap the number of participants at one busload to keep things “manageable,” but that a minimum of 20 is needed for the trip to take place.

“We’re expecting it to be a bit of a challenge to recruit,” Engels said, “but we are confident we can.

“There is only a certain subset of people who would want to do this.”

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