While most of their fellow students were enjoying the school mid-term break, two British teenagers, Avi Levy and Benji Simon, both 17, completed the 90km Sea to Sea (Yam el Yam) trek from Achziv on the Mediterranean Sea to Karei Deshe on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in just three days.
Not content with just the physical challenge, Levy and Simon also set themselves two ambitious fundraising targets, selecting ZAKA Search and Rescue as their charity in Israel, as well as the British Royal Marine Society from the UK. They smashed both targets – raising over £6,000 for ZAKA.
Levy, who has been to Israel about 25 times and is planning to make Aliyah after his university studies, had never hiked the route before but was excited for the challenge and the added bonus of helping a charity that he and his hiking companion greatly respect. “My parents are already supporters of Israeli charities, but we wanted to choose our own charity. ZAKA really stood out for us, especially the sacred and important work of the Chesed shel Emet unit.”
Simon, who has family in Jerusalem and also believes that Israel is his true home, would often “hear firsthand from them about all the tragic attacks and accidents that occur around Israel and the unbelievable help ZAKA provides for those involved. ZAKA also stood out to me because of the unimaginable kindness and thoughtfulness of those who volunteer for its cause.”
Speaking after completing the hike, Avi Levy was grateful for the “rewarding experience and the sense of achievement and self-pride when we finally saw the waters of the Sea of Galilee.” This, after an ankle injury that left Levy trekking on the final day with a flip flop sandal on one foot and a hiking boot on the other.
Benji Simon: “The trek itself was all about us, and what we were doing to thank all those who have donated to charity as a result of our efforts. This was us, doing our bit for ZAKA. And when we rode back to the center of the country in a ZAKA ambulance, it was then that the reality of ZAKA’s work really hit me and I felt really pleased.”
ZAKA International Director David Rose, who hosted the boys for an overnight and BBQ at the ZAKA headquarters on Mount Meron, thanked them on behalf of the ZAKA volunteers: “Thanks to your efforts, ZAKA will be able to continue its life-saving search and rescue work, alongside Chesed Shel Emet. We welcome such initiatives and invite friends and supporters around the world to partner with ZAKA in similar community-based, fund-raising activities.”