Longtime Cooperstown resident Susan Lettis, who rode her bicycle for a cause in Israel this fall, will be sharing her adventure at an upcoming program.
Lettis was one of more than 130 people on a five-day Israel Ride in late October and early November. It helped raised funds for scholarships for Palestinians and Jordanians to attend Arava Institute, an environmental science research center, in Israel. The trip went through a variety of terrain from Jerusalem to Eilat.
Lettis’ talk and slide show will follow a potluck Middle Eastern-theme dinner that starts at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at the First Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown. The event is open to the public.
This is the first time she participated in the trip. She was encouraged to join by friends who had had done it previously. The event raised about $500,000 for undergraduate and graduate students.
The fundraiser is a collaboration between the institute and Hazon, a U.S.-based Jewish organization working “to create a healthier and more sustainable world for all,” according to the latter’s website. The institute students, including Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, study together and participate in a peace institute, which is a requirement of the program.
Lettis, 31, who recently moved to Oneonta, said she has recently gotten into cycling. She said that although she has traveled abroad before, and served in the Peace Corps,“I’ve never done anything like this.”
Her favorite part of the ride, she said, was traveling through the desert.
“It was almost unreal,” she said. The cyclists stopped every 10 miles to make sure they were hydrated.
They got up early and start riding before it got too hot, she said, but it was very invigorating and “kind of addicting.” When her friends talked about going again this year, she said, “I couldn’t say no.”
She spoke at Temple Beth-El, the Cooperstown church and the Cooperstown Rotary Club before she left for the trip, and said she was hopeful some of those people will be in attendance at this first talk since she has returned.
That audience included Cooperstown Rotary member Tom Heitz, who said he knows Lettis and had seen two of the presentations she gave before the trip. He said he was looking forward to seeing the slides and hearing about the ride he helped support.
The project provides something very useful for the people in the Middle East, he said, and it’s essential that people work together with their governments to manager their natural resources. Experiences like the institute can help make a difference in other sectors, he said.
If anyone is interested in finding out how they can participate in this year’s Israel Ride, or to schedule a similar presentation, they can call Lettis at 315-272-4546. More information about the ride can be found at www.hazon.org/israel-ride/arava-institute-hazon-israel-ride/.