19 September 2015 - 6 Tishri 5776 - ו' תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"ו
Dragon Boat Festival a regular event in Israel E-mail

The third annual Dragon Boat Israel festival took place in June on the Sea of Galilee, with hundreds of competitors, including a national team made up of both Chinese and Israeli paddlers. The joint Canada-Israel initiative, spearheaded by Canadian native Debbie Halton-Weiss, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for important Israeli causes.

Hailing from Ottawa, Halton-Weiss told Tazpit News Agency that when she first brought the ancient Chinese sport to Israel three years ago, it was the first time that dragon boat racing had taken place in the country. “Dragon boat festivals had been taking place in over 70 countries around the world, including Canada, but at that time there was nothing in Israel.”

Halton-Weiss, along with seven other Jewish women volunteers from her Ottawa community, raised the necessary funds to purchase six dragon boats from China and take them to the Kinneret.

Dragon boat racing originated in China more than 2,000 years ago and was preserved as a folk ritual. Dragon boats are so named because the stern of the boat features the traditional Chinese dragon. Festivals are held annually according to the Chinese lunar calendar. A dragon boat team consists of 20 paddlers, plus a drummer who sits in the front and synchronises the rowing by beating a drum, and a captain who manoeuvres the boat from the back. They all work together as one in an attempt to be first across the finish line.

“Our mission and vision is to bring people to the northern part of Israel to learn the sport of dragon boating, and to have fun and build teamwork while raising funds for charitable causes,” noted Halton-Weiss. Thirty teams participated in this year’s festival, whose newest charitable partner is Hebrew University.

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