March 20, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

The Heschel Center’s five-day hike will allow walkers to experience some of Israel’s best natural treasures.It’s easy to be an armchair environmentalist and talk about the importance of nature, conservation, global warming and the health of our planet. It’s another thing to log-off the Internet, and leave the house in order to do something about it.

Helping Americans who are passionate about the Middle East do just that, is Israel’s foremost environmental education center, The Heschel Center for Environmental Thinking and Leadership. This month, from Sunday March 23 to 27, the center is running its first ever five-day pilot hike, Hike for Israel.

The hike will not only expose foreigners to some of Israel’s natural treasures such as blooming flowers in the Galilee and the spring migration of millions of birds heading northward from Africa, it will also educate people about this tiny nation’s successes and trials as it learns to protect the environment.

“The hike is unique,” says David Pearlman-Paran, in resource development at Heschel, to ISRAEL21c. “I don’t think there is another one that allows people to experience Israel this way. And there are few opportunities for people to come on a luxury trek – meaning bags are carried from point to point.”

The 30 American participants walking the hike (aged 10 through 75), will be exposed to organizations such as Link to the Environment, a Jewish/Arab Israeli NGO that aims to educate on and improve the environment in Israel’s north.

Hikers will also be treated to local food and fair trade markets, they will be taught how to compost while on the road, and will even meet with Captain Victor Weiss, head of the environmental section at the Israel Defense Forces, who is a past Heschel Center fellow.

Among the US attendees – young and old – are rabbis and directors from influential American foundations.

Hike for Israel is also organized in partnership with the US-based organization, Hazon. Promoting sustainability in Jewish life in the US, Hazon holds a number of fundraiser bike rides each year, in New York, Israel and Washington. They also produce an important conference on food and sustainability each year.

“We are actively walking for a sustainable future. We are walking the walk and talking the talk, and are doing efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of the walk itself,” says Pearlman-Paran.

Heschel is encouraging people to arrive by train, he says, and is currently trying to organize a bio-diesel bus for mass transport. To top it off, a local non-profit carbon offset provider, the Good Energy Initiative will be offsetting the group’s carbon footprint, which will be minimal.

There are a few spaces left for additional hikers, but note the several thousand dollar sponsorship minimum. All proceeds, however, are earmarked for a good cause – to support Heschel and Hazon’s ongoing activities.

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