Local | Post-Its

Tucson Bike Trip Benefits Israeli Amputees

The Next Ride participants prepare to cycle up Mt. Lemmon on Sunday, June 1. Photo: Instagram

A group of elite bike riders from all over the United States and Israel descended on Tucson from May 30 to June 3.

The 100-plus riders were here for more than an epic cycling adventure. They were participants in The Next Ride, an annual fundraiser for The Next Step, an organization in Israel that provides comprehensive care to amputees who have lost a limb through war, terrorism, accidents, disease, or birth defects.

The Next Ride’s (TNR’s) tagline is “Together We Ride, Together We Heal.”

Participants at The Next Ride included 16 amputees The Next Step had previously aided.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Israel has seen a 300% increase in amputation cases. Many civilians and soldiers have had to confront the loss of limbs while mourning the deaths of family and friends and the loss of their homes, says David Farhi, managing director for The Next Step.

TNR originally planned to hold its 2024 ride in Taiwan, then Israel, but those plans were scuttled by security concerns and the outbreak of war after Oct. 7.

Choosing Tucson was simple, says Farhi: “Mt. Lemmon is one of the best cycling climbs in the world.”

TNR had options for riders at a variety of levels. Those not ready to conquer Mt. Lemmon could choose trails in Saguaro National Park and Rancho Vistoso. There were also activities for non-riding partners and spouses, such as a tour of Sabino Canyon, plus all the amenities available at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

Although Farhi didn’t ride, he raised over $35,000 in this year’s fundraiser through donations from friends and family.

(L-R) Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona Board Chair Jeff Artzi, Sarah Artzi, JPSA Director of Development Emily Richman, and Rob Richman attend The Next Ride’s dinner at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort on Thursday, May 30. Photo courtesy Hava Leipzig Holzhauer

Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona President and CEO Hava Leipzig Holzhauer learned of the event from Farhi, a friend of her son Ari.

Leipzig Holzhauer was delighted to learn that The Next Step is one of the Israeli NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, that receive funds from JPSA’s Israel Relief Fund.

She and Ari attended some of TNR’s dinners at Ventana Canyon, along with other JPSA representatives. There they learned more about The Next Step, which helps amputees access top-of-the-line prosthetics from the U.S. and Europe that are not covered by Israel’s national health insurance, together with follow-up care in Israel.

The Next Step also provides social and emotional support, including various sports programs, and advocacy for the limb-loss community.

Six recent amputees, including civilians from Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Magen and soldiers, also traveled to Tucson with TNR. Farhi summarized their talks:

Avida Bachar, a farmer who lost his wife and son in the Oct. 7 attacks, spoke of his gratitude for having had them in his life and for the good that remains. Bachar also lost a leg in the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri; his daughter was wounded but survived.

Baruch Cohen speaks about defending his kibbutz against the Oct. 7 Hamas attack during The Next Ride’s dinner at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort on Thursday, May 30, 2024. Photo courtesy Hava Leipzig Holzhauer

Baruch Cohen, a 72-year-old Israel Defense Forces veteran, lost a leg helping defend Kibbutz Magen on Oct. 7.

Soldiers Rotem, Boris, and Yonatan shared their stories. Boris, who flew back to Israel from Japan after the Oct. 7 attack, lost his leg searching for hostages in Khan Younis when the building he was in with his team exploded. “You show up to protect your people,” he said, adding that being so close to tragedy gives you a different perspective on losing a limb. Asked if he would do it all over again, he said, “Not even a question.”

The talks also included prosthetist David Rotter, who spoke about the teamwork involved in helping people with a prosthetic leg learn to walk with a natural gait.

Moshe Schreiber, a New Yorker who participated in three previous TNR rides, said this trip was special, from the “very tough, but really amazing” Mt. Lemmon ride to the presence of the recent amputees.

“As personal as we always felt every single day about what’s going on in Israel, it makes it that much more personal when you’re standing in the room and meeting people who have been through so much,” he said.

“These are all tremendous heroes who are walking around with the biggest smiles on their faces. Every one of them, their attitude is so positive, yet they’ve been through hell,” he added.

TNR’s global reach impressed Leipzig Holzhauer.

“It was beautiful having hundreds of Jewish people from all over the world here to support this organization,” she said.