Allgäu Orient Rally motors through Israel for first time

The popular cross-country car rally is crossing through Israel this year, as 333 low-budget vehicles make their way from south Germany to Jordan.

Its organizers describe the Allgäu-Orient Rally as “one of the world’s last remaining automotive adventures.” This quirky low-budget rally doubles as a fundraising event because at the final destination in Jordan, every participating vehicle (which cannot be worth more than €1,111) is auctioned off to benefit charitable causes.

In the past seven years, Allgäu-Orient drivers from many countries – including Austrians, Turks, Jordanians, Australians and others — set off from southern Germany and drove local roads through Turkey and Syria on the way to the end point. Due to unrest in Syria this year, the organizers contacted Israel’s German Embassy to ask about rerouting through Israel.

And that’s how it happened that the Haifa Port will today (May 14) greet a ferry-full of 333 cars, and the 666 participants.

Tal Gat, head of public affairs at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, tells ISRAEL21c that the social goals of the rally were appealing.

“The drivers get assignments to interact with the local community on the way,” Gat explains. “They had to bring grass from Bavaria to plant in Jordan, for example. They brought musical instruments to an orchestra in Georgia and played with them. The idea is to bond the participants with local communities. We found this beautiful.”

In Israel, the agenda included two days of projects with Israelis and Arabs, and receptions with VIPs. The driver-passenger duos were to take part in awarding certificates to high school students at Hadassah Neurim Youth Village who completed an Audi auto mechanics course. BMW donated more than 250 little plastic vehicles for them to give out to Jewish and Muslim kids along the way.

Unfortunately, the festivities had to be canceled because of a delay in Europe in getting the cars ferried to Haifa. Instead, participants will drive straight through Israel to the Jordanian border and camp out overnight (remember, this is a low-budget rally) to reach their destination on May 17, according to schedule.

But hey, there’s always next year.

About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.