Dragon boating is a Chinese team sport that has spread around the world as a method of team building, fundraising, and general fun. Ottawa has a major festival with close to 200 boats held annually in June. Three years ago, a group of Jewish women from Ottawa, all Lions of Judea, started their own team to row with their daughters. They called it the Sea Lions. From that came an idea to bring this type of festival to Israel. The goals were to raise money and to help revise people’s view of Israel as a history only vacation destination. My wife paddled last year in Ottawa and caught the bug. Suddenly, I found myself booked on a non-optional trip to Israel.
I was born in Ottawa and have spent half my life there. The other half was spent in Israel. I have been to the Kinneret (Israel’s only lake and fresh water source) many times, but never dreamt I would be paddling in it in a Chinese boat. Today was practice day for our team; my wife and I are on the Sea Lions. Our boat is made up of some of the original Sea Lions women, their obliging husbands, and other friends from Ottawa. The skill level ranges from women with several year’s experience to some with a few hours of coaching to those who were paddling for the first time this morning.
Tonight was our gala dinner of friendship situated at Chamat Chader, which is located at the meeting of the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders. We had an evening of fun and thoughts of peace. Tomorrow we’re up early to race and salute the amazing women who created this festival.
We are clearly following in the footsteps of the original European Jewish pioneers, who settled around the Kinneret at the turn of the twentieth century. As highly educated people, we have the theory of paddling down pat, just seem to come up all thumbs when we have to put this manual labour to practice. I now understand how a University student from Moscow felt on his first morning at Dagnia, when he had to get his milk straight from the cow.