Waves Water skiing Whitewater rafting Sharon

  • Issue: February 1998
  • Designer: A. Berg
  • Stamp size: 20 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 340 - 341
  • Sheet of 50 stamps Tabs: 10
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

Whitewater rafting

The sport of rafting got its name from the English word raft. A river, when faced with an obstacle of any sort, reacts with anger and a burst of energy. This energy creates strong currents, vertical and horizontal eddies, waves, whirlpools, falls and rapids that threaten to engulf, overturn and capture any foreign object that happens to be there. All these pose great dangers to those without proper rafting training. All these various river currents are included in the term white water. White water (foam) appears whenever the powerful currents crash into obstacles on their way. The Greek philosopher Heracletus said, One cannot enter the same river twice, since a drop of water that has swept down the river will never return. Heracletus was no rafter, but he understood what every experienced rafter knows today. Each river has rules of its own, a life, rhythm, character, dynamics and ever-changing, unpredictable behaviour. Every river, and every journey down a river, must be treated with proper respect.

Whitewater rafting began as a means of transporting merchandise down rivers that served as main thoroughfares for boats of every kind. In 1842, the first modern whitewater raft trip took place when Lieutenant John Fairmont of the US Army used a military rubber boat to go down a turbulent river. He was partially successful, but his boat capsized and was destroyed. Despite the sorry end, he did manage to travel through strong rapids believed till then to be unfit for boats. In 1869, John Wesley headed a group of adventurous scientists down the Colorado River, in the Grand Canyon. The group members used wooden boats and rowed using the only technique known at the time, facing upstream. This prevented them from looking forward, seeing the dangers ahead and avoiding them. Their boats shattered and were scattered in every direction, and legends of them are still told by the river people. In 1909, Julius Stone went down the Colorado River on the first commercial rafting trip. After World War II, when many rescue boats from the US military ended up in private hands, the sport of rafting gained popularity. Like the modern boats used today, these boats were made of hi-tech materials, such as fortified Hypalon, and used no rigid materials such as wood or metal. In the past decade, the sport of whitewater rafting has developed tremendously, all over the world. This sport provides an opportunity for man to be with nature and offers a great personal challenge, together with the social value of teamwork.

In 1988, Eran Borochov and Tzach Srur launched the first raft on the Jordan River. The two established the "Jordan River Rafting" Company, and were the first to institute the sport of whitewater rafting in Israel. Since then, the sport has developed, and hundreds of thousands of tourists have enjoyed the experience of rafting on the "mountainous" Jordan.

The Jordan River is unique, being the only river in the world whose source is above sea level, while emptying below sea level. The advantage here for whitewater rafting lies in its steep gradient (a descent of 20 meters per kilometer) and the many rapids along its course.

The future of the whitewater rafting sport is uncertain in Israel and around the world, due to dams built on rivers for hydro-electric power stations. We can only hope that nature lovers and rafting aficionados will prevent further damage to the rivers, preserving them for the benefit of all.

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Water skiing

The beginning of water skiing in Israel may be attributed to among others, Keret and Yashka Ganzy, who skied on the Sea of Galilee on weekends between 1962 and 1982. They built a jump and created a slalom course. Their sons, Eitan Keret and Moshe Ganzy, inherited their obsession. They were sent to a water ski school in the United States, practised in Europe and were among the first competitive water skiers in Israel. During 1979 through 1982 the Israeli championship was held annually at Tamar Beach on the Sea of Galilee. From 1983, all competitive skiing activities on the lake ceased and plans for a water ski cable ways site, intended to serve a large number of people, began. In 1988, Eitan Keret initiated the water ski cable ways site and the Israel Water Ski Federation was established. The International Olympic Committee is due to decide whether water skiing will enjoy the definition as an Olympic sport. Water skiing is a popular sport in Australia and the United States, where an entire industry has developed around it. This includes skiing schools, summer schools, huge stores stocked with skiing equipment, and people who flock from all over the world to learn, buy and participate in the sport. The water ski cable ways at the Begin Park, in south Tel Aviv, made the sport available to the general public. Water skiing in the pre-cable period was a sport for the few who were able to keep a speedboat. The Tel Aviv site is an innovative idea that allows eight people to ski simultaneously, with maximum enjoyment and minimum cost. The idea was developed in Germany in 1976, with 80 additional sites built since, the one established in Israel in 1989 which was the first such site in the Middle East.

The water ski center in Tel Aviv is a real, popular experience for the entire family, from ages 6 to 60. The artificial lake at its center is filled with clean, fresh water. The water is about 1.5m deep, and to keep it clean, tens of thousands of fish were introduced. Activities at the site include a water skiing summer school, organized events for the military and for youths from abroad, and activities for elementary and high school students. European water ski teams come here every year for training camps together with the Israeli team, due to the pleasant weather Israel enjoys in winter.

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