As war rages on and aftershocks of the October 7 Massacre continue to ripple through communities, mobile training teams equipped with bicycles are embarking on a mission of solace. They weave through the kibbutzim and villages that are hosting the evacuees from the south of Israel, drawing smiles from children who’ve seen too much, too soon.
The initiative, aptly named “Riding Forward,” is the brainchild of the Israel Bicycle Association (IBA) and Israel – Premier Tech (IPT), with eager participation from volunteer cycling instructors, including IPT Academy riders and members of the national team.
The project’s aim is crystal clear, to inject moments of normalcy back into the lives of these traumatized children.
Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek was today’s backdrop. With a challenging terrain designed for riding, it bore witness to heartwarming scenes. Children, their laughter echoing, soared over ramps and looked with sparkling eyes toward the professional cyclists guiding them. To any onlooker, this would seem like a regular, joyous day out. But the reality, lurking just beneath the surface, was starkly different. The echoes of the October 7 Massacre from merely 12 days ago were still fresh in their minds. But today, in various kibbutzim across Israel, these resilient souls found a slice of joy.
“It was anticipated that their recent scars might make them wary,” recalled Lahav Davidzon, who was joined by fellow Academy rider Rotem Tene and IPT women’s Conti rider Yasmin Keren for the day’s activities. “But their spirit shone through. In mere minutes, they were embracing the joy of the ride. It was heartwarming to see the smiles we could bring to their faces.”
He recalled some of the conversations he had with the kids, them saying “ ‘My bike was burned… my helmet was destroyed.’ They’re not just talking about the loss of objects, it’s their naïve way of telling me what they went through.”
A poignant moment unfolded when one child, initially hesitant and holding back, stepped forward. The weight of his loss – a close family member in the massacre – was evident. Yet, when offered a bicycle, his eyes lit up. His laughter, as genuine and gleeful as any child’s, resonated deeply with all present. Dafna Lang, the chairperson of the Israeli Cycling Federation, could not hold back her tears. “Witnessing that transformation, that pure moment of joy, it’s invaluable. Sharing the love of cycling with these children, offering them a semblance of normality and a piece of stolen childhood, it’s our immense honor.”
Bolstered by the positive impact, the IBA is already charting the next phase. The Dead Sea area, now a temporary haven for hundreds of evacuated families, will soon hear the comforting whir of bicycle wheels and the laughter of children.