On a Journey From the Heart

For some people, Passover vacation is a time for picnics, traveling and visiting friends and family. Yet for others, it is the perfect time to do a mitzvah. Indeed, Jackie Elias, an active member of American Friends of Rabin Medical Center from the upper east side of New York City, and her friend and trainer in Israel Stephan Sarkissiran organized a Bike-A-Thon toraise money for the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Rabin Medical Center. For Jackie, who lost her father four years ago to heart failure, this was a personal quest in the hope of saving others.

This bike-a-thon also marked the tenth anniversary of the death of the American student Alisa Flatow who was killed by a suicide bomber in Israel and whose heart was transplanted at Rabin Medical Center. Her memory lives on in the Cardiac Transplantation Recovery Unit that now bears her name. Alisa's parents, Stephen and Roslyn Flatow, who are active members of American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, hope the money raised from the bike-athon will help other transplant patients.

A special group of riders began their grueling journey at 5:00 AM on April 26, 2005. They rode from Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikvah to Eilat, a three-day journey that covered over 250 miles. The group was unique. It included professional bike riders and Israeli Olympic athletes, such as elite cyclist Gal Friedman who won Israel's first ever-Olympic gold medal for windsurfing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Joining him were Eytan Orbach, an Olympic swimmer from the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic games, Dr. Avi Moyal, trainer for the Israeli National Soccer Team, Itay Groag, Israeli Teen Cycling Champion, Dr. Dan Oppenheim, CEO of RMC, Benny Savitch, a heart transplant patient, Prof. Gidi Sahar, the doctor who saved Savitch, Dr. Benny Medallion, senior cardiologist, Joshua Plaut, Executive Director of AFRMC, and, of course, Jackie Elias, one of only two women on the team.

AFRMC is now planning to make this an annual event with next year's ride slated for April 21-23, 2006. The public is invited to join an enthusiastic group of participants as they ride the roadways of Israel in support of Rabin Medical Center, Israel's premier medical complex. Next year's route begins in the Golan Heights and ends in Petah Tikvah.

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