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Pedaling peace: Couple to participate in 350-mile bike ride through Israel

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By Stephanie DeCamp

An Evergreen couple are participating in a cycling event, but it’s not your everyday bike ride: It’s a 350-mile benefit through — and for — Israel.

It’s also a journey back to their roots.

Jonathan and Beth Miller, members of Congregation Beth Evergreen, are raising money for the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and a nonprofit organization called Hazon, both of which promote healthy living and sustainability in Israel.

The two organizations have been putting on the event for several years, Jonathan said, “but they also have a peace mission as well: to bring together Arab and Jewish leaders to deal with environmental issues in the region.”

The Israel Ride is an international event with a $500,000 goal; right now it’s at $321,000. Residents of Australia, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada and Israel participate, the couple said, and every rider has an individual fund-raising goal.

Beth has never been to Israel, but has an uncle and cousins there with whom she is going to stay for four days after the ride. Jonathan, who hasn’t been back to Israel since 1976, when he was 15, also has cousins there.

The couple trained throughout the summer, he said, riding hundreds of miles to get in shape for the trek from Jerusalem to Eilat. So far, he said, they have raised $4,508, with a goal of $6,000.

The Millers have a website, israelride2013.com, where people can learn more about the ride and make donations.

"We are just amazed at the generosity of our family, friends and our temple family," Beth said. "They are just totally behind us, and it feels really great.

“I am so excited," Beth said. My father was an only child, and my mother has one brother. (My uncle) and his wife live in Israel, and his kids live in Israel, and their kids live in Israel. They have a daughter that’s a year older than our daughter, and she already has three kids. So I’ve got this whole family there that I’ve never seen or met. Maybe the last time I saw them was when they were babies.”

A friend of the couple went to Israel last year, Beth said, and he said it was “absolutely the most amazing place, and the most amazing trip. And then a few months later he got very sick and passed away within the year. So to me it was a wake-up call. I mean, ‘I can do this now, and I may not be able to do this next year.’ Who knows?”

The couple will leave on Oct. 25, Jonathan said, and will visit the Dead Sea, spend a lot of time in the desert, tour the west coast, and then head to the southernmost part of the country on the Red Sea.

“To be on your bike seeing all of it is really special," he said, "because I can’t think of a better way to see the country.”

Aside from the beauty of it, the trip is all about peace, goodwill and family.

“It’s not so much religious (for us) as spiritual," Jonathan said. "Taking note of where you are, and understanding the history of the area, and that you’re standing in holy places all along the way … and we’ll be able to share the experience with other people. It’s going to be really cool.”

“It’s a little intimidating for me," Beth added, "because there are rabbis and very religious individuals that are doing this, and we’re not that religious; we’re spiritual. (But) I’m very excited by that part … I mean, it’s the origin of every religion.

“And I’d like to stress that it’s not a religious thing — it’s a peace thing,” she said, adding that the trip is neither political nor religious in nature. “It’s about two different groups of people with two different views coming together to solve common problems. Like water — everyone needs clean water.”

“The thing that we really latched on to is that they bring together Arabs and Jews to make decisions together on mutually agreeable terms," agreed Jonathan. "It’s a little microcosm of peace, but the thing is, Arabs and Jews don’t agree on anything, and to find this kind of balance is pretty special.”

The couple have lived in Evergreen for eight years and have three children: Haley, a senior at the University of Colorado; Chasen, a senior at Lakewood High; and Olivia, a freshman at Evergreen High. They first heard about the ride from their rabbi and his son, who made the trip a few years ago.

The Millers are posting on Twitter and Facebook about the event, reaching out to friends, family and through e-mail.

People can donate either on the website or in person. Checks should be written to “Friends of the Arava Institute.” The Millers also may be reached at 303-596-4520. Donations are collected through the end of the year, but the couple said they’d like to reach their goal before leaving. The donations, Jonathan said, sgo directly to the institute. The couple are paying their own way, all the way.

Contact Stephanie DeCamp at 303-350-1043 or stephanie@evergreenco.com.