She looked down on other Ruhama Riders–but they didn’t mind a bit
KIBBUTZ RUHAMA, Israel — A slight gentle movement and the basket lifted of the ground. The fields still were covered with the morning dusk and the sky was only beginning to show pink and yellow colors.
Was this a dream or had my dream come true? I had to pinch myself several times in the arm before understanding that I was not dreaming and the fields and river Valleys down below were the ones where I usual either run or bike.
The atmosphere can only be described as divine, and the silence was “deafening”–only being broken here and there by the PSSSS… of a burner heating up the Air in the balloon. Now and then I waved to the small group of bikers below.
The ride in a hot air balloon was over my home – Kibbutz Ruhama. Joining me on this adventure was journalist Ayellet Nir who is a regular writer on the Israeli bicycle magazine “Ofaneim”. She has been working on an article about the bike rider group in Ruhama – the Ruhama Riders. And as part of the article we had asked some of the group to follow in the “footsteps” of the balloon.
The morning started out at 6AM near the balloon that was lying flat on the ground. Air was blown into it by a ventilator and soon it rose above the small basket that can hold six passengers and the captain.
The hot air balloon flights have been lifting off from the fields close to Kibbutz Ruhama for more than two years. The flights are run by Moran Itzckovich, an experienced balloon captain who is a Kibbutz Ruhama citizen. More information is on his website, www.overisrael.co.il
After a while the riders down below had a problem following us because we started flying farther and farther north over magnificent expanses of nature. Sunrise lit up our surroundings, and from the balloon’s basket, Kibbutz Ruhama seemed much smaller and compact than it looks on the ground.
The Ruhama Riders consists of 20-30 people, including beginners and more experienced riders. The stalwarts are 6-8 riders who bike three times in the week, usually very early in the morning in order to finish riding before going to work.
Not long ago a decision was made to prepare a set of bike uniforms for the whole group. We were lucky to get a sponsor so the expenses could be minimized.
The group now proudly rides together in shirts and pants bearing the logo of the sponsor and the logo of the Ruhama Riders. But if you look closely on the back of the shirt an additional smaller logo can be noticed – it is the Jamaican flag with the sentence “We are free” inscribed on it. There is a very touching story behind this picture.
Avi Garbovski works as a service manager at AvivCom mobile–the company that sponsors us. His son Ido was killed near Saluki in one of the last battles of the Second Lebanon War. He had been in a tank in which everyone except the driver was killed.
Ido’s parents searched for several ways to commemorate their son and in their search they came upon the idea of the Jamaican flag.
Apparently when Ido and his classmates were graduating 12th grade, they had a farewell party and as decoration they hung a huge Jamaican flag on which Ido wrote in the middle “We are free”. After the party the flag followed Ido everywhere and became a symbol for him.
After he was killed his bag was removed from the tank. Inside there were only a few items apart from the flag. Since then the flag has now become a symbol of Ido’s memory for his parents.
Additionally, AvivMobile Com also uses it on cars and in promotional materials.
The Ruhama Riders group are proud to have Ido Garbovski’s flag on their bike shirts and to be able to continue the commemoration of this Israeli soldier– a young guy of 21 who lost his life too soon. The logo can be seen on Ido’s website, www.idolaad.co.il
As the balloon neared its final destination, a small field near moshav Telamim, the captain instructed us on landing procedures. I had not thought that part through. Usually not a very brave flier, this air balloon trip did not rip any nervous membranes in my body, but once we started bumping on the ground and the basket turned on its side my stomach turned once or twice.
Nothing went wrong and apparently this is normal procedure. Well, what can you expect when you deal with the wind and the weather and don’t have big machines to do the work for you?
Hadar is San Diego Jewish World’s bureau chief in Sha’ar Hanegev, the muncipality that is a partnership region in Israel for the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County. Kibbutz Ruhama is a part of Sha’ar Hanegev. The ballooning and biking photos are by Ayellet Nir. The photo of Ido Garbovski is courtesy of his family.