The Drums on the dragon boats have been beating loudly in Israel as they go from strength to strength with building new teams.
Dear Sisters of the Pink Forum I.B.C.P.C.
My name is Orit Ziv. I am 62, mother of three and grandmother to six. I served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) for 22 years as an Operational Officer. Following my release from the army I became the CEO of a recruitment agency for the following 17 years. I am married to Mickey, a former submarine officer in the Israeli Navy. We are both boat skippers.
As the Israeli representative of the I.B.C.P.C. I would like to tell you about our " Pink Lionesses, Israel”. It was June 2017, when I discovered a lump in my breast. Type HER2 cancer. It was a year after my sister Tali had died of Uterine Cancer. I decided to dedicate myself to the community of recovering and current cancer patients in Israel in memory of my beloved sister.
5,500 Israeli women discover they have cancer every year. During the past twenty years, approximately 100,000 women have been diagnosed with female cancers, almost one out of every five women!!! Jews, Arabs: Muslim and Christian, Circassian and Druze. Israel has an excellent medical system, one of the best in the world and we are treated very professionally. However, "the day after" - post-treatment, is lacking. There are only a few agencies that offer aftercare for women who have undergone physical and mental trauma.
Once I became acquainted with the I.B.C.P.C. I decided to devote my time to the wonderful sport of Dragon Boating. In Israel, women with breast cancer history are often members of a special website dealing with the subject. I discovered that in 2017 Israel had three male dragon boating groups. I contacted the northern group and suggested we form another Dragon Boating group. Then I posted on the above-mentioned cancer patients' website. Within 72 hours sixty women registered!!!!! We decided to call our group “Pink Lionesses Israel”.
Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge… Israel is not a desert, but we don’t have much water. Rivers are almost non-existent, and there is pollution in the few that exist. Members of the Northern River group, who had been paddling for only a short period, began having wounds on their hands, swollen eyes etc. The water was tested, and it turned out that it was ten times more polluted than permitted .... Due to these findings, the northern paddling group moved to the Kinneret -The Sea of Galilee. This was and is not easy, since the paddlers come from all over Israel. Some travel from the south of the country, two and a half hours in each direction!!!!
During the establishment of the group, we recruited many volunteers who have joined the group as drummers, coaches and logistic managers. Many of them are spouses who accompany their wives. My dear husband, Mickey, has accompanied me and our group as a guide since day one. This partnership adds a great deal of cohesion and motivation to the group.
We are very fortunate to have an excellent top professional instructor, legendary coach, Ruvik Ram, who has accompanied the team from day one. For these past four years he has been training the Pink Lionesses three times a week. He treats us as part of his family.
During the formation of the group, I worked in a methodical fashion in order to create a strong organization. I set up a management team, consisting of four paddlers, established women with a strong character and popular among the women. Our organizational structure is such that almost every paddler has a role in the organization: including a social worker, doctor, culture committee, disciplinary committee, treasury, etc. Together we have built a code of ethics and refined the group's procedures. We believe that order, organization and discipline are the foundations for achievement. We conduct extensive social activities, celebrate holidays, birthdays, retreat weekends etc. The group has two WhatsApp groups: one for management text messages and the other for the women's chat... this group is very active, imagine 100 women giggling!
Training sessions are held three times a week in the early morning hours during the heat of the summer months and a bit later in the winter. We take great care regarding health and safety issues - the paddlers are requested to wear our group uniform – which block out UV rays, hats and special life vests which they wear zipped up for every training session. They all bring their own water bottles. The paddlers sign a health declaration and are required to perform an annual ergometry test. We are extremely strict regarding safety.
We reached one hundred paddlers in 2019. One hundred women from all across the country between the ages of 28 and 80. Jews, Arabs, religious and secular – all of us are friends and sisters! We contacted the Cypriot Pink team and flew over for a competition taking 70 women with us!!!!
We are very grateful for the outreach clinic brought to us by the President and Vice President of I.B.C.P.C. in November of 2019. The guidance on how to grow and develop further really helped build our group. This visit helped us here in Israel and I am happy to report to our Regional Co-Ordinator Meri Gibson regularly, her extensive knowledge and support is very much appreciated.
But, then Covid 19 struck....
During the Covid shutdown we organized activities from home, led by our captain. The activities were sporty and social, we even recorded a lovely anthem! Fortunately, only a few paddlers fell ill to Covid. Four women have refused to be vaccinated causing us, despite their requests, to prohibit them from group paddling. Due to mass vaccination in Israel, the Covid pandemic crisis has subsided. With much delight we have returned to paddling and continue with vigor and joy to improve our achievements (coach Ruvik measures our speed all the time.)
When Missiles descended on Israel from Gaza, (it’s never dull here) we continued to paddle, as the Sea of Galilee is in the North of Israel.
The most beautiful thing about our group is our sisterhood, the care and affection between the paddlers from all religions and walks of life. Our sisterhood was not affected in any manner by the political situation. We love and respect each other, this group is an example of coexistence. I am certain that if the world was led by women, it would be a better place!
As I write these words, I am initiating the founding of the Tel Aviv group. During the outreach clinic when Meri and Lucia were here, they paddled on the Yarkon River that flows through Tel Aviv. We knew that there was an opportunity to develop more teams there, but we needed to wait until the river was clean and safe to paddle on, luckily it now is safe for paddling. The aim is to form several groups (teams) consisting of a total of 200 Pink Lionesses across the country. It is a big goal but we know we can do it. We are recruiting a team of Skipper volunteers from the center of the country who will become proficient at dragon boating and will accompany the paddlers.
When I watch my paddling women, my Pink Lionesses, I am as proud as a mother can be. If you would have told me, four years ago, that I would become the proud founder, manager and active member of such a glorious organization I would have laughed. I do believe in women's power. I believe in the sport of paddling which strengthens and blesses us with great health and joy.
We would like to invite you to come and visit us on our beautiful Kinneret.
We have a dream - We want to establish an international centre for Pink Paddling. We have great weather, the Lake of Galilee is both Holy and beautiful, and very kind to paddlers. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to come over.
We're preparing for the New Zealand Competition. We wish you good health and wellbeing and hope to see you soon.
All my love, Orit