L’hitraot!

We are all back home and we keep running into people who have heard about the trip, following us here and on Facebook, and they all say it looked like so much fun, and they wish they’d been there. And to all of them, we say, “There’s always next year!”

Obviously, I won’t have too much to say here for a little while, but I will keep the blog up, adding any links we find and updating you on next year. Plus, the pictures keep coming in, and I will keep adding them to Facebook.

Already, the planning is in full swing. We have a date – May 9-10, 2013. We’ve been gathering lots of feedback – if you would like to add yours, about anything at all, feel free to contact us through here, the website or our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from as many people as possible about what you thought went right and anything you thought went wrong.

L’hitraot is Hebrew for ‘see you again’. That seems so much more appropriate than goodbye – because there’s always next year!

Photographs for you

Those of you who are checking out our Facebook page regularly have seen that we are posting a lot of photographs there. We were lucky enough to have a number of talented photographers helping us out (they all did so on a volunteer basis, for which we are very grateful).

They have generously offered to allow you to download any photos you like, but if you post them anywhere else, please just give DBI and the photographer the credit. Most of the photos are low resolution, however. They look great on your computer, but if you want to print them, you will need a higher resolution version.  The photographers are also happy to provide those too.

by Jamie Johnson

If you would like to see Jamie Johnson’s photos, go here to his web page. Jamie, unfortunately, had to leave the Israel before the Festival itself, but he took many gorgeous photos in his short time in Israel, primarily of Jerusalem and Eilat. Contact Jamie directly if you want larger versions of any of them.

by Dan Greenberg

Dan Greenberg’s photos can be found on our Facebook page in a variety of albums, all identified by his watermark. Contact Dan Greenberg directly for high res photos.

by Ehud Melamed

You can see Israeli photographer Ehud Melamed’s photos on his Facebook page, and contact him for high resolution versions.

by Peter Waiser

Peter Waiser’s photos can also be found on our Facebook page, but since I have many of his in the high resolution versions, you can just contact me for those. Israeli photographer Yaron Eini’s photos are also on our Facebook page. You can see his other photos on his web page and his Facebook page, but for any DBI photos, again contact me (either through the button at the upper right of this page, or by sending a message through the DBI web page).

Oh, and if the photo isn’t identified or is by Nicola Hamer – me – also contact me.

by Yaron Eini

 That’s not complicated at all, is it?

A Tribute

During the Festival, I worked my way back and forth from the beach, where I could watch the races take place, to the marshalling area, where I could see the teams coming on and off the boats. There were a number of teams of people who had never paddled before and you could fairly easily spot them by their lack of synchronization as they paddled – some only had one hour of practice on the water. At one point fairly early in the day, I spotted a boat of people dressed in primarily black uniforms, and they even had their own black paddles. They were paddling in unison and they looked like a powerhouse. Watching their boat just cut through the water, all those black paddles moving at the same time, was a beautiful sight and as they headed towards the dock, they looked downright intimidating. I was impressed.

I was even more impressed when they pulled up to the dock and began to climb out of the boat. They were not the boat full of powerful people I expected to see – actually, I need to correct that. While they weren’t what I expected to see, they were clearly powerful people. They were the members of the Island Breastrokers team and were all older women. Some even appeared to have difficulty walking with ease, but in the boat together, they were racing athletes.

Island Breaststrokers

They and the other teams of breast cancer survivors had quite an impact on DBI Festival. Those people unfamiliar with dragon boat racing – and there were many of them – were surprised and amazed at the power of these women. They stated during the medals ceremony that dragon boat racing was a way in which they could demonstrate that they were still strong and vital people. It’s the perfect sport for that, because it is a sport where teamwork is crucial and the individual strength of any one member is less important than their ability to mesh as a team. These women are clearly very good at supporting each other.

Nearing the end of the Festival, they held the Breast Cancer Survivor Flower Ceremony, where six boats of the international survivor teams were surrounded by the two Israel survivor teams, who threw flowers in the water to honour the survivors and remember those who had lost their battles against cancer.

Six breast cancer teams paddled the boats to the beach for the Flower Ceremony.

Festival organizers Debbie Halton-Weiss and Victor Yagoda listen as the Kiryat Shmona Choir sings “Stand up to Cancer,” accompanied by L’Chaim on the Mayim team members Ron and Lauren Weiss.

Even some Israeli spectators, many of whom had never even heard of dragon boating days before, were moved to tears by the experience.

DBI was honoured to have these teams participate in their event.

Our breast cancer survivor teams:

Canadian Abreast Heart
Canadians Abreast Spirit
Canadians Abreast Spitfires
International Pink Sisters
Island Breaststrokers
Israeli Cancer Association
Israeli Yad La Hachlamah Cancer Association
Two Abreast

The Winners!

Championship Final A, First Place:

TAILGATORS

Championship Final A, Second Place:

OHALO COLLEGE

Championship Final A, Third Place:

L’CHAIM ON THE MAYIM (with DBI chair Debbie Haltom-Weiss)

Championship Final B:

DEGANIA BET

Championship Final C:

PACIFIC CHAI

 Championship Final D:

THE BOAT WITH THE DRAGON 2-2

 Championship Final E:

AYALIM AKKO KARMIEL

Championship Final F:

HABONIM

Championship Final G:

INTERNATIONAL PINK SISTERS

 

Top Overall Fundraisers:

MOISHE

Top Israeli Fundraisers:

LIONS OF JUDAH ISRAEL

Breast Cancer Survivor Challenge:

TWO ABREAST

Congratulations to all our winners! You can see a list of the full race results on our website.

Tired, but still happy!

As with many of you, I travelled far to come home from the DBI Festival, and I am very tired. I have a half-finished post with more details but it will have to wait a bit. Instead, I will pop up a few more photos here, and then a bunch on our Facebook page (which, remember, you don’t have to join in order to see those photos). The pictures tell a better story than I can anyway.

This first photo is from Ehud Melamed, an Israeli photographer who attended the Festival. He posted an album on his Facebook page that is also public, and he has some beautiful shots.

This second shot is from Israeli photographer Yaron Eini, who graciously stepped in to help after photographer Jamie Johnson had to head back home early. We have a few photos of his up in our Race Day album right now, and many more will be available soon.

The irrepressible Eddy Cook, the Festival’s top fundraiser and captan of team Moishe.

Yaron Eini, an Israeli photographer at the Festival.

The Festival winners, as well as our wonderful steerspeople, the Tailgators.

First Impressions of a Great Event

It is hard to know where to start in telling you about the Festival. Firstly, it was an amazing experience to first come to Maagan and see the Dragon Boat Israel banners up everywhere, and everything set up.

The site was perfect – it was large enough to fit everyone but small enough to get around without too much frustration. The races were set up to go right in front of the beach for easy spectator viewing.

On Practice Day, all the teams got an hour of practice on land and an hour on the water. Everything went remarkably smoothly, with teams arriving at the marshelling area on time and getting off the water on time too. The day started pretty early, with the first teams on the water at 7 am. I confess, I have no idea when other Festivals start, but given how hot it got fast, starting as early as possible made sense. Also, the water was as smooth as glass in the morning and remained quite calm into the afternoon, but by 3 pm, the wind kicked in. By 4 pm, the waves were high and there were kite surfers on the water. Races would have been impossible by then.

Everyone was psyched by the success of practice day and went off to the dinner at Hamat Gader Spa in a great mood. Dinner was in a huge field with tables set up and an elaborate buffet around the edges. By the time dinner was ready, the temperature had cooled down enough to make it a lovely evening. (One of the many things I love about Israel is the lack of mosquitoes and other flying, stinging insects that attack in swarms as soon as evening approaches. Although I did see a 6-inch locust on the road on the way back to the hotel, so each country has its pros and cons.)

We were up early again on Race Day and the level of excitement was immediately much greater. The teams were all in their uniforms, cheering madly, the vendors were all there and the place was buzzing with action. Again, things ran very smoothly and on time. I was impressed with the organizers’ attention to detail. For example, I wore a red volunteer shirt and at times other volunteers popped by to offer fruit, sandwiches and water. I was so busy that the only time I managed to eat was when someone shoved food into my hand, so I was very grateful.

Princess Lisa leads her team to the boat.

There were also several stations with large vats of cold water for paddlers and volunteers to refill their water bottles. I admit, I assumed that was an Israeli thing and thought it a very smart idea in the incredible heat. I was surprised when one Israeli friend said to me, as he refilled his water, that he thought the water stations were a great idea too. So I guess it isn’t an Israeli thing, but it sure was smart.

Many people I talked to had never raced before, or were on teams that had never raced together, and almost all of them said, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll come in dead last, but I don’t care. It’s just so great to be here.” So many of them were delighted to actually do quite well. They discovered that concentrating on working as a team really did make a difference. The final race was comprised of a very experienced team, the Tailgators, who were expected to win going into the Festival. They were a marvellous group of people, steering for many of the other teams as well as racing themselves. They all worked very hard! There was also an Israeli team and a team from Ottawa that hadn’t raced together before and were shocked and delighted to find themselves in the finals, L’Chaim on the Mayim.

Checking the race results.

In the end, the Tailgators won, the Israelis came in second and L’Chaim came in third. It was generally agreed that there could hardly have been a more perfect end – with the experienced dragon boat racers, an Ottawa team (comprised of several of the dragon boat steering committee), and an Israeli team in the last race.

L’Chaim on the Mayim has a l’chaim after their last race!

Two Abreast was the team that won the Breast Cancer Challenge. Moishe won the donations race (with almost $17,000 raised) and the incredibly energetic Social Awesome Team, made up of young Ottawa adults, won the Spirit Award.

It’s 4:30 am in Israel and I’m writing this in the airport, so my apologies if I missed anything important! I’ll be filling in more details in the next couple of days.

Rivals on the water but great new friends off – Alan Nymark and Paul Finn congratulate each other. Paul’s team, the Free Spirits beat Alan’s on the water, but Alan’s team, Moishe, beat Paul’s in donations. Everyone is happy!

Awesome Day

Really, it is hard to believe so much awesomeness can be packed into one day!

I had this insane notion that I could actually put up photos and video as the day progressed. Ha! I have photos and video – lots and lots. But the day was so packed with things happening that I didn’t have time to eat, much less put photos up. I’m working on it, though.

Here – I’m going to toss some photos up, then write more in another post.

Drummer Princess Lisa leads her Israeli team, Super-Pharm, to the boat.

A Can Velo member brings her dog with her.

Photographers will go to any lengths for a good shot!

The back of L’Chiam on the Mayim’s shirt.

Practice Day

Marshelling area at dawn, practice day.

Synchronicity!

Still figuring out synchronicity!

Members of Can Velo, the mixed sighted/blind team.

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee.

Moonrise on the Sea of Galilee.

As always, there will be more on Facebook. Please note: even if you are not signed up on Facebook, you can still see all our photos and posts, since we make everything public. While FB will suggest that signing up is a great idea, just ignore them and scroll down, and you can see all our albums. Click on the album title to see more.

Last day!

The Adventurerers had their last day of touring on Thursday, before heading to Lake Kinneret for the Dragon Boat Israel. But just because it was the last day, doesn’t mean we slowed down at all.

We started at Kibbutz Misgav Am, where  a long-time resident named Josef told us a bit about the history of the kibbutz and what it is like living right on the border with Lebanon. We were on an overlook that gave us an amazing view of the whole area. He told us about how the neighbouring town in Lebanon, right below, really is their neighbour in every sense of the word and that they used to be able to travel back and forth to each other. Eventually, attacks from Lebanon barred them from each other. He then said that, when the Israeli army moved into Lebanon during the war in 1982, the first thing they did was go to visit each other’s towns and see their friends again.

As with the day before, when we were near the Syrian border, we listened to descriptions of war and violence while overlooking gorgeous, quiet valleys. It was hard to hear, but Josef was very gracious in answering all our questions.

From there, we headed to Korchik School in Kiryat Shemona, where 20 young adults from Ottawa have been working all week on their Social Action Mission, before coming to DBI. You can read more about what they did on the Ottawa Federation’s blog. We got to see a bit of what the Canadians were working on and listen to a concert performed by the school children. Several couples on our tour had adult children on the Social Action Mission, so they were delighted to get to see each other again and talk about their experiences here in Israel.

Finally, the adventure part of our day was a 2-hour raft ride down the Jordan River. There were 3 to 5 people in each boat. We discovered that sometimes, when you put dragon boaters in a boat even when it isn’t a dragon boat, they can get a little competitive. Three of the boats raced wildly down the river, splashing each other and trying to use boats from other tours to block their competitors. It was all great fun, and they only realized at the end that they could have just kicked back and relaxed the way those in other boats did, and saved their arm strength for the actual competition on Thursday. But it was so much fun it was worth it. Tour leader Sharon Finn said afterwards that the motto for our trip should be “That was the best day ever,” because we’ve found ourselves saying that every single time.

Fighting for 2nd and 3rd place while the 1st boat (us) gets by them.

Now we are passed by the Finns and Nymarks as we get stuck.

These guys may not be first, but they arrive rested and relaxed after a leisurely ride down the river, so who’s the real winner?

Next stop, DBI!

Exploring the Golan Heights

It was another busy day here for the Adventurerers! We started off the morning with an ATV tour – 4 people per ATV, so those of us who brought driver’s licences actually got to drive. It was bumpy and dusty  and we all came back covered in grime, but it was great fun.

We saw incredible views as we toured orchards and saw the variety of foods they produce –  grapes, apples, cherries, olives, almonds – the list goes on and on.

We also buzzed by the UN post between Syria and Israel. Our tour leader (who could talk to everyone through a sound system in the ATVs) told us the soldiers don’t much like that, but this guy didn’t seem to mind so much.

We stopped at a spot overlooking the UN post and Syria, and were served tea while our tour guide, Itzik, told us about the Yom Kippur war and how Syria tanks came over the border at that very spot. The peaceful and beautiful view was a stark contrast to his description of war waged right where we were standing.

Our next stop was the Yarden Winery, where we had a tour and wine tasting. Israeli wines are becoming increasingly successful and gaining a reputation for quality and, based on the amount of wine purchased at the shop, those on the  tour agreed.

Liba waits for the wine.

Our final stop was a hike in the Banias. It’s a big place, so we only got to experience a small portion, walking down in between cliffs to see a beautiful waterfall. My camera wasn’t up the challenge of good waterfall photos, so you’ll have to wait for Dan’s photos on Facebook, but here’s a photo of our intrepid leader #1, Rony, in front of it:

Wednesday, we travel to the Festival site. With all this activity, I hope everyone isn’t too worn out to paddle!