Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Evolution in Zionist Sport

Put it on the record: I am saying it now; Mountain Biking is the new Zionist sport.

Zionism as an ethos has many important principles. The most important to me was the principle of getting out into the Land of Israel and exploring it, learning about it through first hand experience.

The first sport that made this possible for early Zionists was hiking. It was a ritual for the Jews of Israel to be out on the terrain learning about the flora and fauna of their country.

This knowledge of the land was so important for the Jews: it gave them the wherewithal to fight better and the ability to create better land for crops and housing.

This part of Zionism was very much about bonding with the land and acquiring the core knowledge for love for one’s country. Hiking is still very much a part of the Israeli experience: schools still take their kids out on day-long hikes to teach not just about terrain and nature but how the fathers and mothers who created the nation did just the same.

Today, though, a new sport has caught fire.

Mountain biking has become so large in Israel in just the last five to six years. For me that is fantastic to see. Thanks to my big brother I have had a love for mountain biking since the age of twelve. It has once again become major part of my life here in Israel, for the last four years.

I have seen so much of our beautiful country, thanks to my bike -- places I would never have seen or experienced if I weren’t riding the trails of Israel. Like the Zionist hikers of old, I am out on the trails pushing my self while taking in the beauty that our country offers.

As my Saluki dog, Yael, and I pound up and down the hills surrounding Rehovot and Nes Ziona, we've come upon wild pigs, vipers, black racer snakes, foxes, Beduouin tents, herds of sheep and goats.

Sometimes, when out of sight of human habitation, it's as though we're cycling back into biblical times, and the surroundings become timeless, unchanged. Plus, after the extensive rains we've been blessed with this winter, we make our way through oceans of blossoms and brilliantly flowering bushes and shrubs.

Today, every Shabbat you will find that the roads of Israel are packed with cars laden with Mountain Bikes off to find new trails and new experiences in nature. This is Zionism at its best.

The riders themselves might not even know that what they are doing is very much acting out the ethos of their country, but that does not matter. That is not nearly as important as returning ourselves to experiencing and learning more about the beauty – off-road.

Thanks to the Mountain Bike this is happening on a major scale.

It might not replace Football as the national pastime, but it might surpass hiking as the new, true Zionist Sport!

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