Top EWS Riders Learn the Lay of the Land in Israel

Jan 6, 2018
by James Shirley  
James Shirley sends 'er sideways with a rugged Israelian backdrop.

Words by James Shirley

It was only when I landed in Tel Aviv did the messages come through, "are you okay? Is everything fine?". Hmmm… Funny… Everything seemed fine… Apart from the fact that I booked the cheapest flights I could find from Inverness to Israel which meant a long stint at Heathrow Airport and now sleeping on the floor in the Tel Aviv arrivals hall from 3am until the others were due to arrive 8 hours later.

Every 10 minutes a lady on the PA system would kindly remind everyone NOT to carry weapons INSIDE the airport - it also seemed strange, yet quite likely, that this could be a ’normal’ message. There was also an unusual amount of security personnel on hand. I felt quite safe in the airport. I didn’t want to be outside anyway. Off to sleep I went…

Desert Dreaming: thinking of the good times ahead.

Four months previously, I was cooling off at the Lost Lake in Whistler with just a few days to go until the 7th round of the Enduro World Series. I was with my racing buddies – Max Schumann, Ines Thoma and Ludo May. Having only one more round after this we were already thinking about a trip to do in the off-season. With Nathalie Schneitter and Noga Korem also in our company, it was quickly decided where we should go: to Israel! Noga is the only Israeli on the circuit and she is definitely a one of a kind. She’s from a land whose stories and myths from places such as Bethlehem and Nazareth seem so familiar and yet so distant at the same time. We couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.

The Crew.

It wasn’t until we were reunited at the airport that I discovered what was going on. Apparently, Trump had just announced the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the country’s capital in Jerusalem which threatened to jeopardize the negotiations of the ‘two-state solution’ and aggravate the Middle East conflict. Foreign Offices worldwide were issuing travel warnings for Israel and especially Jerusalem, which happened to be our first port of call. To complete the squad, Ludo brought his girlfriend Nancy Pellissier and Ines took an old friend from her cross-country racing days – Markus Bauer – who happens to be the current German Marathon Champion. Our anticipated 9th member of the team decided at late notice not to risk the journey.

The first clear observation was the sheer number of armed personnel. Gun laws in Israel are strict but soldiers are allowed to carry their service weapons even if they are off duty. It is also mandatory for all civilians to enlist in the Israeli Defense Force – up to 3 years for men and 2 years for women – after they have reached eighteen years of age, so there is definitely a strong military presence.

Girls with Guns: Do not mess.
Lunch: Israeli Style.

After checking in to the hotel we had plenty of time to take a stroll through our new surroundings. At over 750 metres above sea level, the air became crisp and cold as the winter evening rolled in. Our accommodation was located just outside the walls of Jerusalem whose ancient past holds great significance for three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Noga, aware in advance that she wouldn’t be able to satisfy our curiosities kindly organised a tour guide who lead us through the shrines of this great and holy city.

Jerusalems City Walls.

We walked over the roofs of the bazaars with the golden-topped ‘Dome of the Rock’ temple in the background. For a long time, Jerusalem was considered to be the centre of the earth. It was the world’s largest city with the tallest buildings and grandest temples. Unfortunately, as we were told, when the Romans invaded the entire city was flattened to the ground.

Three Wise Mountain bikers.

As we came closer to the glinting golden roof, the location of this Islamic temple became more apparent. It sat on the ‘Temple Mount’ whose enormous retaining walls were originally created as the foundations for King Herod’s giant Jewish ‘Second Temple’ (the first one got flattened by the Babylonians before the Romans came). The Western Wall of this structure is often referred to as the ‘Wailing Wall’ because it is now the closest point to the top of the mount where the Jewish people are allowed to pray.

The Wailing Wall.

Before we could get to the wall, metal detectors awaited us like they do at airport security. We then split up: Women to the right; Men to the left; and we all prayed for good trails ahead...

High and dry in the desert air.

The next day we drove East into Palestinian territory and dropped down towards the Dead Sea. We parked behind a gas station, assembled our bikes and jumped on a shuttle which took us back up the same road from where we had just come.

Nancy getting set with the uplift truck awaiting in the back ground.

We were dropped off at the top of the “Sugar Trail” – an old trade route which used to carry goods, food and sugar from the planes by the Dead Sea up to the city of Jerusalem. The rivers that once ran into the Dead Sea have long since dried up due to intensive irrigation and water demands. It is said that the water level drops by 1metre every year and currently sits at -430 metres which meant we had a descent of over 1,100 metres to play with!

Sweet Sweet Sugar Trails - Markus Bauer leading the charge.

At the summit of the trail, we were surprised by the presence of our guide from the previous evening. He brought with him some typical home-grown tea and freshly baked pastries for us to enjoy whilst he furthered our knowledge of the history of this beautiful area.

History Lessons - part 2.

We finally got going on our first bit of singletrack. The ground was way more predictable than I was expecting. There wasn’t much sand in this desert. Instead, the trail felt very hardpacked – baked earth with big rocks, large sections of bedrock and a thick sprinkling of dust in places. Even with our high start point, we still had a bit of climbing to do as we weaved our way up, over and around the various rocky dunes. I can’t say that the riding itself was the best in the world but the whole combined experience made for one of my most memorable rides. I had to stop and pinch myself every now and then to prove that it was real – I was riding in the desert, below sea level, taken back in time to on an old highway that was built hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

Desert Dunes.

After a truly brilliant ride we made it to the Dead Sea for a quick float before sunset. The water there is incredibly dense and it’s so rich in minerals that it tastes disgusting! It is also advised that you keep your face clear out of the water – Ludo.

The Dead Sea at Sunset - time for a quick evening float.

Once the sun had set we drove a few more minutes to register ourselves for the Dessert Challenge – a fun sports festival that welcomes runners and bikers to take part in various races of different formats from Friday night through to Sunday afternoon. That evening some of us did the 5 and 10km run in the night with our head torches. The next morning was the cross-country marathon race which we contested, on our trail bikes, in teams of two. There was a strong turnout of high-end bikes. In fact, throughout the whole trip I was impressed by the number of quality bikes and kit that people were using. It was fun to be a part of the festival and everyone there was open and welcoming. With several victories and medals between us, we went back to our accommodation and packed our things ready for the next ‘Noga Tours’ adventure.

Nathalie Schneitter - chuffed. Previously one of the World's top female cross-country riders, she still hasn't lost her enthusiasm for racing

In the morning we had time for another quick bathing session before a 4-hour journey south-west to Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by a group of curious Ibex. We then checked in to our hotel and bedded down for the night.

Ibex welcoming.

This area is specifically marketed as a mountain bike hotspot and the trails, maps and signposts are all well done. The terrain is generally flat and rocky but with breath-taking views of the "Grand Canyon of Israel". It felt much more like a cross-country adventure than a trail ride shred and we finished our tour that day pleasantly exhausted after about a 70km round trip with a cool Coke at the bar. Riding in the desert is thirsty work! Even in December, the temperatures are still high enough that you’ll be a sweaty mess by the end of a ride.

The Grand Canyon of Israel.

That evening we trucked north. The route took us East of the Gaza strip, through Tel Aviv and onwards beyond Haifa. Our destination in the north-east was in a much greener, hillier landscape. This is where Noga’s family are from and we were invited to join them for a delicious feast of traditional home cooked dishes. It was lovely to experience an evening in local company with great people and food.

Markus finding some fresh dirt - the climate is much less severe up North.

The trails of the following two days were very different from the desert landscape that we had just experienced. The sparse pine forests around Misgav and Mishmar HaEmek offer fast, flowing trails with jumps and berms. The vegetation there is reminiscent of Tuscany or parts of Southern France with dry hard soils and a few bits of scrubland in between the wooded areas.

Max Schumann - our main man behind the lens.

The second of the two riding spots was located and built on Kibbutz land by some of the community members. This Kibbutz – Mishmas HaEmek – which has been in existence since 1922 has a population of over 1,200 people and still operates with a traditional socialist structure.

Ludo in the trees.

Our tour of the area started in the village with some spiced coffee at the local bike shop. Our guides for the day live and work in the settlement and it was really interesting to get to know them. They talk highly of their lifestyle and the environment they live in. They work together for the community and in their spare time they also happen to be great riders and trail builders too!

Israel did not disappoint. James lays it flat on one of the jumps.

One memorable thing about the villages and settlements dotted around Israel is the high level of security. They all have sturdy metal fences that surround the perimeter and a controlled electric gate at the entrance. It seemed bizarre at first but it soon became expected. One day, however, we got caught out. There was an incident on the highway, no flow of traffic in either direction and a big tailback so we decided to turn around, take the previous junction and find a new way back to our accommodation that night. Google maps suggested that there was a road that would have taken us to where we needed to go and it was correct. There was a road… in places. We followed the dirt track through the fields, over the dried-up river beds and eventually crawled the van up and over to the village where we were staying. It was only then that we remembered about the gates and the fences. We were locked out and on the wrong side of town so we abandoned ship and had to walk the rest of the way!

Abandon Ship.

The final highlight of the trip was Tel Aviv – a fascinating city with sandy beaches, modern skyscrapers and the ancient port city of Jaffa tucked away in amongst it. We arrived well after dusk and so only had enough time on the first evening to walk along the promenade with kebab in hand overlooking the city skyline.

Tel Aviv at Night.
The Market Place.

The next was our last full day in Israel so we took the bikes for a quick sight-seeing tour, coffee stop and trip to the market.

In the afternoon we joined some local pinners in Tzora at a seemingly inconspicuous meeting place just under an hour outside of Tel Aviv next to a fuel station. Crazily enough, this place turned out to be an absolute gem with some of Israel’s finest singletracks. With a multitude of high speed, rocky, technical runs and some fast guys to keep pace with we had an absolute blast. I got the feeling that in Israel the gravity scene is still a bit underground. There’s huge potential for xc style missions all across the country but the best purpose-built singletrack trails seem to be quietly created by a few passionate people. Tourism is a big thing for Israel and it feels as though the sport is moving in the right direction so let’s give it some time and see what happens. Could this be the winter riding destination of the future?

Ines - cool as always.

The morning soon came and it was time to check in at the airport again. We joined the long queues for the strict security control and somehow all of the things that kept us on our toes before didn’t seem so scary anymore.

Love What You Do.

Thank you, Noga, for a brilliant week! Without her, the trip really couldn’t have happened. She has all the connections, the language skills and the knowledge of what’s good and what’s not. Since it was the end of the season our trip was biased towards the culture of the country rather than just a pure riding holiday but she told us of many more locations that she knows of including a bikepark with 5 specific DH/Enduro trails and Gondola uplift! She said we didn’t go there because it was an extra hour further north above Haifa but perhaps she just wanted to save something for the next time…

For more info then contact Noga at Israelmtbtours@gmail.com to book yourself a spot.


















122 Comments

  • 38 8
 Please keep all comments above board – any racism, xenophobia, discrimination or just out-right nasty comments will result in a significant ban.
  • 25 16
 Like JohanG?

Don't you think its kind of ridiculous that PB have posted an article that shows the bizarre experience of westerners riding push bicycles through a conflict zone for a laugh though? Then to top it off concluding it with an advertisement for others to join them and do the same.
  • 29 40
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 5:01) (Below Threshold)
 The country is called Palestine.
  • 36 43
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 5:30) (Below Threshold)
 www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories
Shame on Pinkbike for posting this article. I wonder why there are no Palestinian mountain bikers???
www.google.ca/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/worldviews/wp/2017/03/16/is-israel-an-apartheid-state-this-u-n-report-says-yes
-Google the ‘Sampson Option’
-Israel has over 200 high yield ICBMs in it’s arsenal and has refused to sign the non proliferation treaty. Fact.
-Israel is an apartheid state. Only jews are allowed to live there. Fact.
-Israel has violated 66 UN rrsolutions. Fact.
-Palestinian civilians including children are tried in israeli military courts which have a conviction rate of 99%. Fact.
-Israel imprisons and tortures children in israeli military prisons. Fact.
-there are 9 million Palestinian refugees. People do mot leave their own country for no reason. It is ethnic cleansing. Fact.
www.google.ca/search?q=map+of+palestine&rlz=1CDGOYI_enCA692CA692&oq=map+of+palestine+&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.16158j1j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=RFoVcPoATRjnMM:


-the golden rule for a moral existence is to treat all living beigns in the same manner whe wish to be treated.
-we are all brothers and sisters on this planet. No one is better or lesser than the other. Becausr a book written by a man (or men) says so,it does not make it so. Love your brother, love your sister and treat everyone with respect and tolerance and the world will be a better place.


.
  • 88 7
 @Golden-G:

I'm a mountain bike instructor and guide from Israel, and while there is a conflict here and a lot of things need to be sorted out, you definitely got some of your "facts" wrong so I'd check your sources.

My dentist is Muslim, the Shuttle driver we often use on the trail featured in the article is a palestenian muslim from Jericho and we love working together, I have both Christian Arabic speaking Israelis and Muslim Arabic speaking Israelis that I ride with and some of them are students of mine. We even have some muslims in the Army, police force and parliament.

Again - there's a lot of shit here but its mostly politicians, media and people of interest who paint the picture you see. Also a whole lot of people trying to get along and some of them just enjoy riding bikes.

Sorry to burst your bubble Smile
  • 19 32
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 6:20) (Below Threshold)
 @Sababike: I absolutely agree with you that there are certainly many good moral people who live in Israel. Israel represents all jews like Donakd Trump represents all Americans. The policies and actions of the Zionist israeli government do not speak for all people living inside the borders of israel. No doubt about that.
-israel is an APARTHEID state. Fact.
-there are 9 MILLION PALESTINIAN REFUGEES. Fact.
-israel imprisons children in military prisons. Fact.
-zionist settlements and Palestinian land thefts are illegal under international law notvto mention utterly immoral. Fact.

A few questions:
-does israel treat all citizens equally?
-when, where and how was israel created?
-how does israel afford the second largest fleet of F-16s, the 3rd largest fleet of F-15s, as well as one of the largest fleets of Apache helicopters???
-how much US ‘aid’ does israel receive and why?
-how many dual us/israeli citizens hold prominent positions in the US government?

-does israel practice the golden rule of morality? (Treat all living beings in the same way you wish to be treated, for all those unaware)
  • 18 14
 @Sababike: The bubble wont be burst until people stop dying on both sides and you don't need a huge wall and armed security to keep from people killing eah other - you are the one trying to create a bubble and ignore the reality of the wider situation by painting your own personal utopia.
  • 15 0
 Make Hummus Not War
bit.ly/2GDJUX2
  • 15 17
 @Golden-G: As i am Israeli..
About your Facts.. I don't know.. if you checked them before posting..
I think you're looking at the wrong picture so you get wrong facts Smile

the UN isn't the most reliable organization in my opinion.. since it had resolved more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined! why Israel ?
The Only democratic state in the middle east..
Israel does treat all citizens equally, yes.
all those facts you have, check them again.
  • 12 19
flag gnarnaimo (Apr 6, 2018 at 7:28) (Below Threshold)
 @Golden-G: The people of pinkbike would like you to kindly frig off. Fact.
  • 4 5
 @chen84: 'The court is not reliable as it keeps finding me guilty of my crimes'
  • 12 18
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 8:03) (Below Threshold)
 @chen84: BAHAHAHAHAhahaha...
Amnesty International is probably not reliable either...nor the International Red Cross...
You can’t white wash your genocide no matter what you try to do. Shame on all who participated in this trip and article. Take a tour of the OCCUPIED Territories and see how the Palestinians are faring...
  • 16 3
 I’m looking at this self righteous bullsht and watching my past Pinkbike lives... I tell you guys, with a bit of luck your hormonal balance will take you to the place where your stupid political views won’t matter. A few people wrote PMs to me in last few months telling me how in their groups, shops, companies they keep riding and politics separate. I’ve been on this shitty train for way too long. Let’s relax, watch Sam Hills run from Chile and stop looking for problems in other people’s yards.

Peace
  • 4 0
 the most offensive thing about this story is the crappy, posed photo that leads the story. just awful.
  • 6 11
flag MTBingSpartan (Apr 6, 2018 at 9:16) (Below Threshold)
 @Golden-G: Why is Isreal always blamed for the problems over there, they are just protecting their religious freedom as well as there citizens, Jews Muslims, and Christians included.
  • 9 7
 @Golden-G: Before you get on your soap box remember these things, you don’t have any experience over there neither does the media or the UN, you don’t really know what your talking about evident from the sources you sited, and this is a MTB website so we don’t need your social justice warrior routine.
  • 7 9
 How much did the Government of Israel pay to have this travel ad placed?
  • 4 5
 @MTBingSpartan: hey it's ok for you to have your opinion but because his does not align with yours he should just shut up, got you.
  • 5 3
 @Racer951: What I’m saying is this is getting way to political, some riders went on a trip to Isreal big deal, I don’t have a problem with differing opinions I have a problem with his biased sources.
  • 7 10
 @MTBingSpartan: there was no such thing as ‘terrorism’ in the ME prior to 1948! Perhaps you have noticed that according to the media, one has to be a Muslim to qualify as a terrorist. Islam actually preaches tolerance and mercy as its key principles. Pull your head out of the sand. Who owns the banks, the media, hollywood??? Which group is beyond reproach in our society? Who can you not criticize? Wake up!!!
Zionist invaded Palestine in 1948 and have practiced a policy of ethni cleansing ever since. FYI 35% of Palestinians are Christians.
  • 7 13
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 10:34) (Below Threshold)
 @MTBingSpartan: Pffff... I know a wrong when I see one. The zionist have perpetrated a genocide against the Palestinians since 1948. It is an Apartheid state. I know exactly what I am talking about. The MSM is a zionist entity.
Treat all living beings in the same manner that you wish to be treated. That is the golden rule for a moral existence.
Israel treats Palestinians like scum. I have seen it with my iwn eyes.
m.youtube.com/watch?v=vH0ugM4GWdo
m.youtube.com/watch?v=3rI10QD3k20
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvxXgqBq8ZU&index=79&list=PLHyVTLeVCBiUGG-k-8N4GDtgZmCqbUUN_
m.youtube.com/watch?v=nfQtHdymqQM
m.youtube.com/watch?v=94NsrP1EKGg
m.youtube.com/watch?v=IcNQLJsOvjI
Yeah these videos are probably fake...
  • 5 6
 @Golden-G: So if Muslims aren’t the majority of terrorists then who are?
  • 3 3
 @Golden-G: Ture what you say about them teaching each other to be treated as equals. But their scripture, the Quran, states that they need to convert or annihilate infeddels, Christians or Jews, and that to be successful they must have a regime to be a successful religion. Hence them trying to take Isreal and destroy Ideals of the Western Civilization.
  • 4 8
flag Golden-G (Apr 6, 2018 at 11:43) (Below Threshold)
 @MTBingSpartan: lol!
What propaganda you spew. Have you read the Talmud??
  • 10 9
 @MTBingSpartan: largest terrorist outfit in the world is the US Military, #2 IDF and Mossad.

Definition of terrorism:
“the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Someone defending their homeland from an invading force by which ever means is a rebel of freedom fighter. Resistance is not terrorism.
Palestine is the name of the country. Israel is the name if the invader and occupier.
  • 5 4
 @Golden-G: No propaganda just good and true facts, maybe unheard or not popular but ask anybody from Israel, they are in the right. I’m going for a bike ride because this has became to heated, I would probably like everyone on Pinkbike so regardless of your political views let’s go biking!
  • 6 6
 @MTBingSpartan: why don’t we ask the Palestinians since it is their country???
  • 10 6
 @Golden-G: Wow, I think you should just relax..."Who owns the banks/media/Holywood"?? WTF?? Your words remind me of very dark days and some nasty people...PB, I think this is where you should interfere and stop this out of place BS. There are special web sites for guys like Golden-G to express his antisemitism...
  • 2 0
 lol And this is all under that comment from a mod... speaking of which, where is the mod control? Nvm... I'm with @scottay2hottay... ABANDON THREAD. This is unbelievable.
  • 2 1
 @kuplik3: Can't believe you're getting down voted. It was stated that PB will interfere if necessary.. But for some reason this is still going on.
  • 4 5
 @Golden-G: WOW! Accusing the US of being a terrorist organization is completely absurd, really freaky actually. Believing that the US is worse the the Palestinen terrorists and suicide bombers.
  • 1 0
 It is tragic that the truth is so nasty in this case that this warning is applicable. Shame on the aggressors.
  • 5 4
 @kuplik3: being pro-peace, pro-Palestine does not make me anti-semetic. I love Palestinian people. Perhaps you should look up the definition of semite.
For the record there are millions of jews worldwide who fully oppose israel’s genocide against the Palestinians. Jewish Voice fir Peace is just one of them. jewishvoiceforpeace.org

Nice try though...
  • 5 5
 @MTBingSpartan: you are clearly unaware of the definition of terrorism. Look it up. The US military has killed over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians. I’d call that terrorism. As for Palestinians, resisting against an ovcupying/invading force is NOT terrorism. I’ve heard all this xionist rhetoric before...yawn...
  • 2 5
 www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/israel/palestine
SHAME on PB for posting this whitewash garbage article.
SHAME on all those who participated in this ‘trip’.
Where is your morality???
  • 2 1
 @Golden-G: you can believe in ferry’s it want make them real
  • 1 0
 @Noamhorev: I was on a ferry the other day, I am sure they are quite real.
  • 36 13
 I think I will pass, riding through a conflict zone in an area that is political dogshit with more problems on both sides than you can count isn't my idea of a nice bike holiday.
  • 8 3
 @Racer951 + you're living in BC, traveling to the opposite of the globe to find nice trails is not needed
  • 25 0
 First I thought they stole the article from Enduro-mtb.com (enduro-mtb.com/en/israel-travel-story), then I realized it is from the same author Wink .

I get the sentiment though I realize many people from Israel don't like their politics either. Heck, I think pretty much anyone from nearly every western country can find a few things in their countries policies they really hate. At least I can (being from The Netherlands). You can fight it or just do something positive that eventually eclipses the negative stuff. She's born there, what can she do? Not everyone wants to be an activist. I think sports can bring inherently good stuff. Though I agree at some point even sports can be abused for political nonsense, I agree (which is why I started to hate the Olympics). So yeah I wouldn't go there, thinking a large chunk of the tax paid is invested in the conflict. But then again realize that if they lithium for your batteries comes from Congo, it fuels the conflict there. Gold, rare earth metals, it is all pretty messed up. Heck, there is even so much Chinese stuff I own even though I don't like their human rights policies. It takes quite something to live in a way that's in line with the ethics I strive for. So if there is a successful pro athlete trying to make a living setting up her own mtb tourism, it doesn't even score that high on my list of unethical stuff to do.
  • 5 2
 @Racer951 your description also fits alot of English speaking countries right now
  • 9 5
 @zede: I live in England.

@IllestT You are comparing the conflict between Israel and Palestine with which 'English speaking' countries? Care to list those for me? Or are you one of those 'there will be war on our streets soon' type of knuckle draggers because a family from a different culture lives on your street now?

Many places have problems, but Israel / Palestine is one I would rather stay well away from in every sense, both sides are batshit mental, both sides have huge issues and I wouldn't want to travel to either to help fund their economy / propaganda and therefore agenda.
  • 11 26
flag JohanG (Apr 6, 2018 at 3:36) (Below Threshold)
 Its ok. The IDF is good at keeping the Muslim terrorists away. Best in the world, actually.
  • 15 6
 @JohanG: People like you make my skin crawl, you notice my comment was impartial, stating the problems on both sides but of course this kind of thing always brings people like you out from under the stone you hide under.
  • 5 2
 @JohanG: And they bloody need to be...
This is a tiny bit like the western students who spend time in North Korea just for that frisson of something. But you're just as likely to get caught up in a terror attack in Europe or the States (probably more if you include the monthly nut-job sprees). Israel's got a bit of a bad rep security wise, not entirely deservedly. I'd be more concerned with the tacit approval of the Likud (?) party's heavy-handedness and oppressive tendencies, which you give by spending money in the country. Or you could totally separate fun from politics in your mind and just enjoy life without a care, which is fine too. I think the worst damage you'd suffer in the country would come from the mental gymnastics of understanding who the why the where the what the f*ck is happening in and around the place. And sunburn. No god damn trees.
  • 4 5
 @BenPea: I dont think Israel has a bad rep for its security - I have not ever heard anybody say that, ever, they have a very well funded military and border security setup.

The issue is that anyone in the region on both sides needs security of this type at all, neither are absent of blame or wrong doing so don't get into bullshit sides on this one, the whole place is a mess, I just think its kind of odd to try and promote some kind of casual bike riding holidays in the area considering what goes on there.
  • 11 1
 @BenPea: students traveling to weird places is something they just do, it's fkng stupid and freaking good on them. It's better to experience waking up getting pissed at in some god forsaken place without a wallet, only to get projectile diarrhea two hours after, ever week for few months, than to get through studies with prime grades and got on office job until the end of your life. Or worse, end up as a bum on the couch watching soccer with piss beer in your hand, cursing the world and having strong political opinions. Or even worse, appropriating everyone, calling everyone racist and homophobic in a most hateful way. Then hearing a trigger word and running around like a headless chicken screaming: where is my safe space?! Where is my safe spaaaace?! If you go somewhere out of most comfort zones and you make it alive, you get rich. The path of exces leads to the tower of wisdom.

If you go on organized holidays to a war zone where armed men cover your fat ass all the time, and eat eggs and bacon from dusk till dawn, yoah I can judge you for being a prick who calls that an adventure.

Other than that, please go experience different things vividly.
  • 19 3
 @Racer951:
Don't believe the social media. Exaggerations is very good for rating. I'm right now in Jerusalem surrounded by Jaws, Muslims and Christians and we don't really try to kill each other Smile
  • 1 0
 @Racer951: I agree. As I said the bad security rep is probably undeserved, but you can't tell me it isn't on people's minds when they think of that region. A bit like Northern Ireland back in the day. Not taking sides either, that is far from being my goal, but in such situations there can be a perception that one side is the underdog and they will inevitably be the ones who get the benefit of the doubt, rightly or wrongly. I'm with the Israelis and Palestinians who believe that there could be another way forward if there weren't so many dicks on each side (this is a universal truth that has led to our world being what it is). The more you try to learn about these conflicts the less black and white they appear. Black and white don't exist.

@WAKIdesigns: I agree (god damn I'm feeling conciliatory today), and I've been to some reasonably disconcerting places myself, and I don't just mean South London, but a racist homophobe is a racist homophobe, however the accuser is painted (snowflake, lefty, commie, feminazi or, as would have been the case many decades ago, n***er lover - see how we forget about history?).
I was thinking about the US kid who got sent back from N Korea in a coma, having been arrested for steeling a poster of Lil Kim, and about how similar he was to the boy how poked a wasp's nest with a stick on our school picnic, earning me three stings on the top of the head. Yeah, personal issues.
  • 4 1
 @shaked: true story, I was there one week ago
  • 5 5
 @shaked: Well that's OK then, I mean if a small minority in the area of Jerusalem live in harmony then what do the remaining majority that live elsewhere and all of the other huge issues matter?
  • 10 9
 @Racer951:
Please stop trolling this comment section and let us all enjoy biking.
  • 11 4
 @shaked: so shut down anybody with an opinion by calling it 'trolling'?
  • 7 4
 In the past year, I have seen several ads and articles about biking in Israel.
Why?
Because Israel needs to legitimize himself as a country and needs to rebrand himself to the eyes of the rest of the world.
Mind you that Israel by many countries is still not recognized as an official nation.
This is because it is accused of war crime. War criminal shade.
Representatives from other countries will not vote in their favour if this is their image.

If you follow road cycling, you may know that Chris Froome, was caught doping last September.
He still needs to be disqualified. Which is hard to explain why is taking so long.

Chris Froome is due to partecipate to Giro d Italia for the first time this year, which will start in few weeks.

His participation to Giro, created a lot of media drama (is he good enough to win etc.) and huge coverage.
Being an English speaking rider, he attracts the attention of all English speaking press. Having him in a race means the race will have more coverage on English speaking media, and in general on medial all over.

So why is he participating to the Giro in the first place, with the high risk of finishing his reputation, and why he is not disqualified yet?

He is in the race because he got 2 mil from the organizers.
The organizers got the money from Israel.
Because this year Giro starts from Israel and they had to pay to host the start.

He is not going to be disqualified before the Giro, because of the diminished media coverage.
As I said, it has been 8 months since he resulted positive to doping and still no decision.

My guess is the decision is being postponed because of political influence of the country hosting the start.
This is a great occasion for them to portrait themself as a beautiful country rather than a war zone.
Portait themself as a beautiful place, with time, will cancel of the war crime image and help legitimize themself as an official country.

It is not a coincidence you see articles on Israel cycling everywhere. It is a governamet plan.
  • 3 2
 @RedRedRe: huh what? Isreal and cycling - a great mysterious plot of super powers, really? I wonder what each country must have dine to host the start of Giro. Other than pay money to Giro organizers fkng ndaaaaa. Like the time I’ve been on start in fkng Denmark.

It’s safe to bet that nearly every single top roadie pro is on dope and UCI has papers on nearly every single of those dopers. Each single one of the caught ones is a targeted opeartion with a clear motive. Someone in UCI, WADA, USADA or among big sponsors profits from it by drawing attention from main players. Anti doping has little to do with keeping sport clean, it makes sure there is an impression doping is being fought. Froome being disqualified is in no ones interest, especially not for corrupt UCI and Antidoping agencies. How can you even compare this to Qatar and Fifa?!

So there’s no special precedent with doping scandals and start locations for Giro. Your pattern recognition system fails you big time.
  • 3 1
 @WAKIdesigns:

I am with you that most sports are run as a business without any sportsman values anymore.
However you are missing some details that are very significant to make an historical comparison.


1– It is public/proved/certified that Froome doped. Besides being obvious for years (from 120th to podium in a year after joining SKY).
Eight months after, no decision. Never happened before to take this long.
There were other cases of athletes participation to events while being investigated for previous tests (and I am with you they had interest to cover up in these cases).
However it was not public they were under investigation (Contador, Armstron etc.)
Everytime the news of a doper is public, the athlete is disqualified in very short time.
Why not in this case?
Very likely the decision will be made after the Giro.

2 – Giro starts often in other countries. They pay, they host.
They wanted Froome for a long time, in particular last year for the 100th edition. They tailored the course for him to have a chance to be a contender (otherwise he had no hope). He did not show up. If they had 2M to give him, they would have paid last year. The Giro is the biggest international event ever happened in Israel. You guess who worked out the deal to have the extra exposure of a rider like Froome at the Giro can bring.

3 – UCI may be corrupt and lack true sport values, however they do not want Froome to race otherwise the news wouldn't be public. When did the news "leaked"? The day after the new UCI president, a French, was elected.
You can bet if the president was still the English guy, none of this would have been public.

4 – At this point, his participation is a big turn-off and bad advertising for cycling. Sponsors pull off when the sport is associated with doping. No sponsors, no cycling. If it was possible for UCI to decide he was clean, they would have already. But they can not as they would loose all credibility.
Who would be getting benefit from his participation while not being touched by his doping shade? The organizers? Not for sure, as they are already playing down his presence. Technical sponsors? Nope. The only one coming clean while still getting all media attention from having a doper in the race is... you guess.

1+1+x=3
Find the value of x.
  • 4 1
 @shaked:
Really? Even the smiley face?
Today 7 Palestinians (wonder how old were they and what is the real number) and 1000 were injured by the Israeli army.

the comment I replying to:
"Don't believe the social media. Exaggerations is very good for rating. I'm right now in Jerusalem surrounded by Jaws, Muslims and Christians and we don't really try to kill each other. Smile "
  • 1 1
 @RedRedRe: Rupert Murdoch ?
  • 3 2
 @WAKIdesigns: please go experience different things vividly.
WAKI, this is good. I never understood people criticizing others for exploring the globe. It seems like a mountain biker trait, no? I take people from all over the world out on bicycle tours, and if they give me any grief I remind them that I just live here! And may be my country but it's their world.
Great write up, James! Thanks for the inspiration!
  • 15 1
 Jeez. Don’t we all just ride bikes? Peddle, have fun.
  • 7 6
 Absolutely
  • 9 10
 @shaked: "yea, stop talking about this stuff and let me advertise my friends / my bike guiding business in Israel"
  • 5 5
 Except for Palestinians. Geez I wonder why there are no Palestinian mountain bikers??? Hmmm...
  • 8 0
 Enjoyed this article. I spent many years as a kid in Egypt and Jordan, and visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories(West Bank) on a long weekend. I always thought the terrain would be good for some riding. I don't think I would go back though- my only experience with settlers directly was watching them walk down the street in Hebron with guns drawn, and watching a small fence which split a street in two. On one side, Palestinians only, on the other, Israelis. I felt transported to the segregated south or apartheid South Africa. It was also quite expensive to leave there, I recall the exit tax, regardless of nationality, was something like $80, which most likely goes to the government, not the local MTB community. I hope one day there is an article where you get to meet some Palestinian Mountain bikers and we can all shred together. Also, as a side note, you guys should try Jordan. It has to have some awesome trails too.
  • 15 3
 Israel and the West Bank are 2 different completely stories. The settlers you saw in Hebron are extremist that you can find on both sides (and in every country). In Israel, the situation is way different, Arabs and Jaws live together and eat in each other restaurants. Generally we all want peace
  • 3 2
 @shaked: there are to many jaws all over the world hhh
  • 2 1
 Bah nuh, bump bah, bah nuh, bump bah, bah nuh, bump bah...
  • 3 4
 The real life picture is far more complex and diverse, but this is another view:
www.facebook.com/mtb.together
  • 2 0
 @shaked: I do agree, it's something I failed to mention in my earlier post. Those guys were crazy extremists. Most people just want a decent life, a enough money to spend on a bike or eating out every once and a while and a decent house. As many have said, it is more complex, and to be honest, I would probably run into the limit on how much you could write in a post if I could express how I felt. I don't normally comment as it is, but this area has been close to my heart. Thanks for sharing.
  • 2 1
 @ziv2102: This is pretty cool! I'm sorry if I didn't come off as saying the real picture is more diverse. I'm one of the lucky who has traveled on their own in the area. One day I will go back, you can't ever go once. I wish they would have met this group for their trip, that would have been really neat!
  • 3 1
 @shaked: why is Israel and West Bank different? Aren’t Israeli jets (bought to you by us citizen tax money) bombing villages before the settlers go over and claim the land? Isn’t the Israeli military the one shooting civilians including children?
Enjoying your free health care and education? Guess who paid for it? USA people tax money. And we don’t have either.
I rather have free healthcare and education myself rather than having the governament giving 2 billions a year to a foreign country to bomb villages and now to rebrand itself as a cycling tourist destination. Because I am 100% sure this trip and your business are at least partially founded by the governament. With my money.
  • 2 3
 @RedRedRe: then why don't you stop paying taxes?
  • 11 1
 ABANDON THREAD ABANDON THREAD
  • 5 1
 The statistics would show that you have a higher likelihood of dying by violence in the US than you do in Israel, Palestinian issue included. There are political, social and economic forces at work in the Mid East that we can't even begin to understand...
  • 8 2
 any Idea where I can get bike to rent? I would love to do the sugar trail when I am there on vacation
  • 6 4
 You can ask in a Facebook group called BikeTalk, they will help you
  • 6 5
 you are more then welcome come and visit , let me know the dates and number of riders and you'l get great experience Smile the sugar season is almost over so in a couple weeks or month it's going to be hell hot here.
  • 2 2
 Bible bike is a group there!
  • 2 2
 Niib you can try to contact Martin Bissig in Switzerland
  • 7 1
 Looked like some pretty bland riding, I'll choose a different desert thanks
  • 3 1
 Wow! There's a serious amount of comments here. Let's try not to get carried away with politics and opinions. The story is about a group of friends who go abroad to see a new country and the moral behind it is to be more open minded - everywhere you go in the world you will find good people and with the correct attitude you can always have fun. So thanks to our bikes for giving us the excuse to ride, explore and experience new places!
  • 4 3
 Zionism is like Nazism with lebensraum expansion, dogmatic thinking, ethnic cleansing, heavy militarism, the list goes on. Fact is that if you are Jewish you can become a citizen of Israel with very little effort. That right is not afforded to any other peoples in Israel in the same way.
  • 2 1
 How many PB'ers have actually been to Israel? I understand there is long standing conflict but the Middle East has been in conflict since the dawn of humanity. I just got back from Israel after having traveled for two weeks with my wife and 18 month old son. We went to the Palestinian side in Bethlehem, amazing people who were welcoming and friendly. We were in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, again, amazing people who were welcoming and friendly. Yes there is conflict between both areas but at no point did we feel in any more danger than anywhere else in the US. There is a rich history in the area to explore and I wish I had my bike at the time to do some riding. I re-read the article several times and at no point was it offensive in any way. The author was very objective and merely talked about the experience. Ya'll need to lay aside your own biases and pre-conceived notions about certain places and take an article for what it is.
  • 10 6
 Guns and bikes No thanks
  • 8 7
 RACER951- You live in England. Your calling another place "batshit mental".? "Clockwork Orange"ring a bell? Or beating the the shit out of eachother over a soccer game? Its just mountain biking, and dam good riding at that.
  • 12 1
 Yea because a film and a few football fans is exactly the same as a huge conflict over land and thousands of people dying over the past 10 years.

Both of your examples are the private business of the people involved too, not two governments a / nations on the constant edge of killing each other.
  • 7 2
 @Racer951: shut the f*ck up about killing and concentrate on mountain biking.
Americans discussing Middle East politics is like a child explaining quantum physics.
A bunch of misinterpreted BS .
  • 5 4
 I was there a week ago...
And also with a company from there, everything was fine and the trails are AWESOME!
GO AND FIND THIS GROUP : BIBLE BIKE, WWW.IBT.ORG.IL
and may you change your idea!
  • 7 5
 The amount of ignorance in some of the comments here is mind boggling. Regardless, awesome photos.
  • 3 0
 Sick self-caption on that ever so sick skid bruh
  • 1 0
 The pic of the Dead Sea at sunset isn't there.
  • 7 5
 PALESTINA LAND!
  • 6 4
 Free Palestine PEACE
  • 4 7
 UZI DOES IT!
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