Teens from Israel, South Africa’s Jewish community, and the Soweto township began a five-day bicycle ride from Johannesburg to Durban this week.
You might call it a Tour de Humanity.
The 700 kilometer inter-cultural cycling tour – dubbed “Cyclalive” – is being run through the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether program to connect Israeli kids to Jewish communities throughout the world. The link between teens in the Beit Shemesh region and in South Africa is one of nearly 50 international partnerships between Israel and Jewish Diaspora communities.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Lior Kenan kicked off the bike ride from the Nelson Mandela Center in Johannesburg.
“These wonderful teens from different places and different worlds in South Africa and Israel will ride together in a true journey of love and brotherhood,’’ Chairman Herzog said. “The message of this ride – that we are all humans and we are all equal – should be spread throughout the world.”
The theme of the ride is “tikkun olam” – “repairing the world” – and along the way, cyclists will visit places involved in voluntary and humanitarian outreach.
Herzog added, “It’s moving to kick off a bike ride in the spirit of tikkun olam, especially in a place where the public and political atmosphere is critical toward Israel; especially at a center named for Nelson Mandela – who worked his whole life to advance brotherhood and partnership between peoples.”
The Cyclalive expedition is the initiative of Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, Head of the Torah Academy Orthodox Jewish school in Johannesburg, who, in the aftermath of the fall of Apartheid 20 years ago, recruited partners from the black community to join a project that is intended to nurture appreciation among teens for multiculturalism and acceptance of the other.
The annual bike ride receives wide public attention in South Africa. The ride raises money for educational projects throughout the country and in Soweto, and also raises awareness about bike safety among young people.
The Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether program joined the initiative several years ago, sending teens from the Beit Shemesh region to participate. Partnership2Gether creates ongoing bonds between local authorities in Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world, through joint programs and by forging people-to-people connections between Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.
The ride consists of some 40 11th graders. Four are from Israel, and the rest hail from the Torah Academy school and from Soweto’s Moletsane High and Pace College schools.
The participants are divided into four groups, who take turns cycling 10-kilometer legs throughout the entire tour. The entourage is run by school staff with a tour bus in tow. The high schoolers stop at different places along the way to volunteer in various social institutions and with different disadvantaged populations. They provide school supplies to local schools and visit children in hospitals as well as handicapped children in special educational institutions.
In addition to tikkun olam, the ride is inspired by Ubuntu, the African humanist belief that a universal bond connects all humanity to one another. Along the way, the Israeli teens will be hosted in Jewish communities and will represent the genuine Israel to kids in Soweto schools.