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Whitewater Rafting in Israel

היסטוריה של הרפטינג בארץ ובעולם
היסטוריה של הרפטינג בארץ ובעולם

  • 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

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 Heraclitus said, one cannot enter the same river twice, since a drop of water that has swept down the river will never return. Heraclitus 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 behavior. 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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