Hadar Crosses the Sea of Galilee for Dignity and Pride

For: Beth Dror
Organizer: Hadar Aviram
of $2,000 goal
100% Complete
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!
Swim day is Sat, Dec. 21,and we start at  5am Israel time (for those of you in the States, that's Fri, Dec. 20th at 10pm EST, 7pm PST). Follow our progress live on our SPOT Tracker page here!

About the Sea of Galilee

Located in the Northeast of Israel, the Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in the country. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. The lake's primary source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south, and it is also fed by several underground springs.

The Old and New Testament are full of references to the Sea of Galilee; much of the ministry of Jesus occurred at its shores and among fishermen near the lake. Its importance to modern Israel cannot be overestimated. It is the source of Israel's National Water Carrier, home to many local fauna and flora, and an important tourism hub.

Beth Gabriel, located on the lakeshore, will hopefully be the setting for a future peace agreement between Israel and Syria some day.

About Hadar Aviram

Hadar Aviram is an Israeli-American open water marathon swimmer from San Francisco, CA. Her previous swims include 18 miles out of the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, the 11-mile Portland Bridge Swim, the 3*10k Three Seas in Three Days, the 10km USMS Championship in 2012, nine successful Alcatraz crossings and other races around the world.

When out of the water, Hadar is a law professor at UC Hastings, whose recent research focuses on American punishment and incarceration and on the impact of the financial crisis on criminal justice practices, corrections, and the death penalty.

About the Swim

Hadar plans to cross the Sea of Galilee on the shortest day of the year, December 21, swimming from Amnon Beach in the north to Tzemach Beach in the south. She will swim under strict English Channel Rules, in a textile suit, cap and goggles, accompanied by a motorboat. Her support crew will include family members and friends from the Israel open water swimming community. Pace swimmers will join in for an hour at a time, as per channel rules. Hadar will be fed every 40 minutes using bottles with strings and will not touch people or craft until successfully reaching the South Shore of the lake. The swim is expected to start before dawn and to last approximately nine hours.

About Beth Dror

Beth Dror is a shelter and refuge for israeli LGBT youth who have had to leave home due to their sexual orientation. A dedicated staff of instructors cares for the young people at the center, helping them with education and jobs and providing them with resources to live their lives in dignity and pride.

For more about Beth Dror and the amazing things they do, click here.

Hadar hopes to fundraise at least $2000 for Beth Dror, allowing them to provide sports and enrichment opportunities to the young people they serve.


by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters,

SUCCESS! On Saturday, I crossed the Sea of Galilee lengthwise! 

See our trajectory here, and a full report on the race here

With your generous help, we raised $2,754 for Beth Dror. I will send them a check as soon as I get home.

But wait! There's more! My pilot for the swim, Lior, has a wakeboard business, and has offered a fun day in the summer for all the Beth Dror youth - free of charge!

In the last few days, I have been inundated with good wishes and congratulations. I have repeatedly said that a crossing is not really a solo event; the crew, on the boat and on ground, is essential for the success of any marathon swim. But you know what? This swim belongs to YOU as well. Your support and generosity has allowed me to rally a spirit of enthusiasm and giving. We've supported a very good cause and have done something athletically notable at the same time. Thank you so very much for being part of this fabulous thing.

All the best,


by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

The countdown has begun! Tomorrow at this hour we'll be waking up, eating, greasing up and getting ready to get in the water and swim the length of the Sea of Galilee! As a reminder, you'll be able to follow our progress live online by clicking here.

Yesterday I practiced getting in the water and swimming in the dark. It's an incredibly peaceful and meditative experience.

One thing people don't know about this sport is HOW MUCH PACKING IS INVOLVED. Fortunately, I have the best logistical planner in the world at my side - my mom, Yael, who's been working really hard on making this swim happen. My mom will be running everything on the ground; packing and unpacking, checking out of the rental unit in the late morning, picking us up on the south side of the lake and running us back north to get the cars. 

Also, here's a shout-out to my boat crew: Captain Lior Eliyahu, Head Handler Haim Aviram, aka Dad, Communications Officer Tal Katvan, aka Cousin, and Pace Swimmer Lisa Galfand-Trudler, aka Queen of Everything. I couldn't wish for a better crew and am in very good hands.

Here's what will get done today:

1. I need to prepare my feedings. I'll proably be needing 3.5 bottles, but am making 5. The bottles include diluted applejuice, maltodextrin, and a pinch of ginger powder against seasickness.

2. Finish making the feeding apparatus and create a little pocket for Advil, which I'll be taking at the recommended daily rate to stave off shoulder inflammation.

3. Pack up warm clothes, towels, thermoses, food and gear for the crew.

4. Talk to my pilot to finalize details, entry point and meeting time.

5. Pick up crew and drive up to Amnon Beach.

6. Eat a nice nourishing dinner together.

7. Rest up and go to sleep early!

Tomorrow morning, upon rising, we have to:

1. Grease up (I use a mix of vaseline, lanolin, and--very important--zinc oxide as a sunscreen)

2. Put on bikini and warm-up clothes

3. Eat a nourishing breakfast and drink warm liquids

4. Do a land warmup (running, jumping)

5. Rendezvous with pilot and load up the boat before we get going!

6. Running the crew again through hypothermia protocol, feeding times, pace swim schedule...

Here's what you can do to help, no matter where you are:

1. Send us messages! Comment on Facebook posts or here. My team can read me comments during feeding breaks.

2. Spread the word, including a link to this page! We have only a couple of days left to raise more funds for Beth Dror and their incredible work.

As always, thank you very much for your generosity and support. It's a great thing to do for a great cause and I'm anticipating a lot of fun!



by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Everyone!

A fuller update to follow, but just to let you know: on Saturday morning, Israel time, you can follow us live on our SPOT tracker page by clicking here.



by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

I'm back from the lake, where I did a short 2k practice swim this morning to alleviate my concerns about the conditions. The bottom line: Temperatures are cool and refreshing, but not prohibitive, and we're on for Saturday.

The lake has lots of microclimates and micro-conditions. My mom, whose knack for logistics is astounding and who has done a lot of work to make this swim happen, drove me to the west shore of the lake first. There were a handful of fishermen bundled in heavy coats, all complaining about the heavy wind. Lots of chop, about 2ft swells - not conditions in which I felt comfortable doing a practice swim without a lifeguard. We decided to drive around the lake and see what was what.

The east shore of the lake was calm and glassy, and I went in the water near Kibbutz Ein Gev, swimming along the shore and chatting with fishermen in boats. I think these guys catch the fish that the restaurant next door serves to guests and pilgrims - mostly the signature Galilee seafood dish, grilled St. Peter's Fish with olive oil, herbs and lemon juice. They seemed to enjoy the conditions as well, and I bet they were relieved to see the storm subside.

I came out a bit chilly, but far from hypothermic, and a nice cup of tea at home took care of the residual chill. Feeling good and in great shape. Will probably swim once more, Wed or Thu, in the sea or in the pool, and then rest up for Saturday.

As always, thank you for your generosity and support; we're doing this for a very good cause!


by Hadar Aviram
Hi, Friends and Supporters!

It's now Dec. 16 in Israel! I've been up most of the night, because of jetlag, and will try to keep my sleep on this odd nocturnal schedule to make it easier at the 4am start of the swim on Sat.

My folks report the following interaction with pretty much everyone they know:
"So, I bet that event your daughter was going to do has been canceled because of the crazy weather."
"Our daughter IS the event, and she's crazy, so we don't know."

Since that assessment is not incorrect, swim is ON! The questions are, therefore, when, and how cold it will be.

The latest news about the weather here are that the storm seems to be over. Air temperature is very cold and hovers a bit above freezing temperature. Water temp in the lake was reported to be, this morning, 23 degrees Celsius, which would be ideal for me, but might still decline as the snow from the last few days melt. Based on the weather forecast for the rest of the week, my pilot says we should have optimal conditions toward the weekend, and I am therefore inclined to keep our original swim date of Sat, Dec. 21 (that's Fri, Dec. 20 in the evening for those of you in Northern California).

I've been taking double doses of calcium and magnesium to keep my muscles in good condition and am doing daily stretches. I'm also eating warm foods - my family has been terrific in taking care of me. So far, no pool time, but I'll go for a mellow 3k this afternoon. Tomorrow morning I plan to go into the lake for a quick swim to see what's what. One of the things I've learned about marathon swimming is that better knowledge of the conditions, even when they are unpleasant in some way, is always better than nasty surprises.

I have linked my SPOT Tracker page to my Facebook page and to my twitter feed, so that you'll be getting alerts about my progress periodically. For those who are not friends with me on Facebook, please feel free to send me a friend request; my cousin Tal will be posting pix and videos on my wall. You can also follow in more minimalist fasion on Twitter: aviramh. And we'll be announcing the GPS live map link here, on my swim blog, and on all social networks well in advance.

Other than that, I realized something I hadn't thought about before, and feel a bit dumb for only thinking about this now: For the first three hours or so, not only will it be difficult for the boat to see me, but it'll be difficult for me to see my food as it's dropped into the water. I bought a bunch of glowsticks, which we'll tape to the bottles to ensure that the food isn't lost at sea and that I don't have to fumble too much to find it. If the water's cold, keeping the feeding stops short and making headway is going to be key to avoid hypothermia.

That's pretty much how things are going for now; later today I'll be talking again to my pilot, who plans to get in the water this morning and see what it's like. I'm in good hands and am very excited about the swim!

As always, thank you for your support and generosity; it means a lot to be able to do a good deed while taking on a challenge.

by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

I am in Israel! I flew in yesterday. The journey was fairly difficult this time; the plane was stuffed to the gills, and the folks flanking my seat on both sides had questionable social hygiene (one was fighting with his wife, and the other loudly snoring and emitting other odd noises), and so I got no sleep. My parents very kindly came to pick me up from the airport, not an easy feat, because--and this is important--Israel is experiencing the worst storm it has seen in decades. There is snow and ice everywhere; winds are blasting and frozen rain is constantly dropping from the sky; and, the roads are blocked. After a very slow and very brave drive home, I fell asleep in my clothes (and my beanie.)

The awful weather, obviously, poses some important questions about our crossing plans. I have not yet spoken to our pilot, but will do so later today when everyone wakes up. Last week we toyed with the idea of pushing the crossing date back to this Monday, if the weather cooperate, so as to not take any chances with the weather next Saturday. But this unprecedented, unpredicted storm may leave us out of options and we'll have to cling to the original crossing date.

Several people emailed to ask about the temperature in the lake. I wish I had a good answer, but I'm stumped. The main website I relied on reports the water to be 20 degrees celsius (68 fahrenheit), which for me is perfectly doable. But I find it hard to believe that, with snow and hale and ice, the lake is indeed that warm. We'll have to regroup early next week and, as soon as the weather clears, take a practice swim to test the waters (literally.) Right now it's fairly dangerous to drive, let alone swim, so I'll have to stay at home and cross-train by running and doing laps in the neighborhood pool until the storm subsides.

I will keep you all posted soon, and as always, thank you for your generosity and support,


by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

We're getting close to the final countdown! On Thursday I'm flying out to Israel, and the swim is the following Saturday. Very excited!

There are some disconcerting news regarding the condition. The water temperature is fluctuating between 17 and 23 Celsius, and friends from the open water swimming community think it'll be closer to the colder end. Nine hours in 17-degree water is not an easy feat, and while the Bay is much colder, my bay workouts were fairly short. As is usually the case when training for volume, I put in the multiple-hour workouts in the pool for the most part. For more information about why the lake temperature is being, well, temperamental, read here

To prepare for this, I plan to do at least two acclimation swims of approximately an hour and a half each in the lake on the week of the race. I hadn't planned on swimming long workouts in the lake so shortly before D-Day, but my experience in marathon racing is that mental preparation is the most important, and if I know i can withstand the cold water, it'll help immensely with my endurance during the event itself. I'll also put some time into short speedwork in the pool this coming week, to stay sharp and tuned.

In other news, Jonathan Wolfman, an author and activist, shared a story about our swim as the lead story on his radio show, Passionate Justice. Listen to the podcast here!

More updates, including on GPS and social network coverage, are coming! As always, thank you very much for your generosity and support.



by Hadar Aviram
Dear Friends and Supporters,

Thank you very much for your generous contributions, which have helped me meet the fundraising threshold! I'm so happy we get to support Beth Dror through this swim.

In other news, I've swum the two giant back-to-back workouts on Sunday and Monday (the latter workout was cut a bit short, as the good people at USF closed down the pool at 9pm. The nerve! :) ). I'm still swimming a fairly heavy load this week, culminating in another 10k on Saturday or Sunday, and after that, will begin tapering. My prior experience in marathon racing has persuaded me that, in my case, conserving my shoulders and being well rested is more important than racking up many miles in excess of the swim itself. I'm swimming a load of approximately 25k per week (the swim is 21k) and I suspect that, barring any unpleasant shoulder complications, we'll be fine.

I'm also experimenting with some small tweaks and changes to my stroke, particularly my breathing to the right, which seems strained on videos from the Tampa Bay Marathon and may have been the cause of my shoulder injury. I'm working with a great sports masseur/therapist/acupuncturist on some preventative strategies and stretches.

My crew is excited about the upcoming swim (though, to their dismay, there are no bathrooms on the boat; this is truly a glamorous sport!) We are told that there is cellular reception all across the lake, so you will be receiving updates, photos, videos, and GPS tracking via this website. The SPOT tracker map will be embedded in the swim's homepage for you to follow our progress from home.

I will keep you posted about how taper goes and about training swims in the Sea of Galilee. Thank you again for your generosity and support!



by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

It's getting close! 20 days left before the big swim!

The last couple of days were spent cross-training; the hotel pool at our wedding destination was a mere 10-yards long, and so, I opted for running 5 miles on snowy trails in the morning. Which means, now that I'm back, there's work to do in the pool!

This weekend marks the lengthiest part of training: I'll be putting in 10k a day for two consecurive days, which adds up to almost the length of the entire race. These distances are easier physically in the pool, of course, where one is protected from the elements, but the mental grind resulting from hundreds of laps is considerable and good preparation for the difficulties in the later hours of the swim. 

Back-to-back 10K workouts are also a great opportunity to practice race-day feedings, and so, I'll be making myself four feedings worth before heading out there. These will consist of Vitergo powder in diluted apple juice with a bit of ginger powder. I'm just making sure the feedings are friendly to my stomach and will agree with me during a lengthy swim.

Thank you very much for your support of Beth Dror through this swim! If you know anyone who might be interested in contributing to this important goal, please forward them our link: http://www.youcaring.com/crossingforyouth.



by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

We're doing really well with fundraising for the swim! Already at $1578 and still $423 left to raise!

I also got a SPOT tracker, which is a GPS device that goes on my motorboat and broadcasts where we are. That way, you can follow our progress live on swim day.

Yesterday saw me bring up yardage to 9k. I didn't have enough to drink during practice, and the combination of dehydration and chlorine was a bit much, so I'm taking a recovery day today, but will get back in the water tomorrow. From now on, I'm practicing with race-day feedings, to make sure I'm getting enough calories and fluids.

During Thanksgiving we're out of town, but I'll find a pool near where we're staying, and cross-train with some running. Next week we're up to 25k per week and 10k workouts, which is the longest I intend to swim in the pool for this enterprise. 

In other news, we have found modest accommodations near the north shore of the lake, which will allow for another hour of sleep the night before the swim. This is very good news for me, because our day will start with at least three hours of swimming in the dark. Fresh water doesn't have bioluminescence, so the only source of light will be coming from the boat. 

More news on the progress of training and the swim soon. Thank you for your kindness and support!


by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

Time for another update - 31 days to go before the crossing!

This week I've increased yardage to 23k, and swam the big bear of a workout - 8k - on Monday morning. That pretty much did me in for the rest of the day, since the first 3k of that was speedwork with the USF Masters team. It's important to train for speed as well as endurance, because both qualities are important for a successful swim.

I have also sent a memo with the swim rules to my crew, detailing feedings, medical issues, reasons to end the swim, pace swimming, and the like. 

I'm still examining two issues pertaining to the swim: whether it's worthwhile to have an objective observer on board and whether I want GPS monitoring. The former question is more one of vanity, as my motivation for following the swim rules is internal--having a great swim and raising funds for a good cause--rather than external (to impress someone or get the swim into a record book.) Nonetheless, it would be a good thing to have one objective person on the boat, in case there are hard decisions to be made about ending the swim before reaching the shore (unlikely but not impossible.) One of the beautiful and brutal things about marathon swimming is the uncertainty, and sometimes it's best to have a neutral observer make the call, rather than burdening friends and family members with tough decisions that carry baggage.

The latter question is of more interest to you guys, because if I manage to get a SPOT tracker, you'll be able to follow the progress of the swim in real time online. That'll be pretty nifty, and I'm trying to figure out if I can shoulder the expense for such a system. If it ends up being too costly, we'll be posting constant updates about the swim on Facebook and Twitter, and will let you all know where to go to find updates and photos on swim day.

Other than that, in anticipation of the cool water temperature, I'm increasing my calorie intake--an enterprise perfectly timed for the winter holidays! Sociologist and Channel swimmer Karen Throsby refers to this deliberate weight gain as "heroic fatness", and among other interesting phenomena associated with it, she discusses the liberating effects that eating calorie-rich food AND being a fit athlete has on women, who are constantly disciplined in our society to curb and police their own food consumption. Marathon swimming is awesome in that it completely shatters social mainstream myths about what fit people look like; very thin people often (albeit not always) find it difficult to swim in cold water because of lack of insulation and buoyancy. Given the fabulous food in the Bay Area, that will not be a problem here!

Thank you all for your generosity and support, and see you on the next update,


by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends!

35 days to go before the big swim and we're already halfway past the fundraising goal! Thank you all very much, from the bottom of my heart, for helping me help Beth Dror through this fun and exciting swim.

I wanted to share some of the logistics behind the swim. Marathon swimming is not as familiar a sport as other athletic enterprises, and I thought you might want to know more about what goes into a swim like this.

Every marathon swim requires a support crew, and this one calls for a motorboat. In crossing the lake, I'll need to sight on the boat, as when I'm in the middle of the lake I won't have any useful landmarks to look for. The motorboat is there for safety and sighting, and the crew will be working hard. During a swim, I feed every 40 minutes from wide-mouth Nalgene bottles thrown into the water using a retractable dog leash, which allows my crew to haul back the bottle and monitor my calorie intake. Having tried solid foods in some prior swims, I've now switched to liquid foods. Every feeding consists of 250ml of diluted apple juice containing maltodextrin or another complex carb. The apple juice kicks in first, and the low-GI carbs sustain me for longer. I also add a pinch of ginger powder to combat seasickness and a bit of liquid Advil to counter shoulder inflammation. In previous swims, I started taking liquid Advil in Hour Five; this time, I'll add it to all my feeds, in the hope that we'll be able to stave off shoulder pain until the end of the race.

The nice thing about swimming in fresh water is that the unpleasant salt mouth feeling after several hours in the water will not occur. The Sea of Galilee water is so nice and fresh that, in a pinch, I can just take a gulp of the lake and keep going. 

Another thing to plan for involves avoiding chafing. I usually swim in a very comfortable two-piece suit and put on a fairly thick layer of zinc oxide, which helps prevent chafing and acts as a very effective sunscreen as well. It's not the prettiest beach appearance, perhaps, but marathon swimming is not a glamorous sport!

In the meantime, I'm training with USF Masters and on my own, and cross-training with runs on non-swim days. I swim five days a week. This week I swam 21km (the total length of the crossing), and my longest workout was 7km. Next week's long swims will be 8km and 6km, and the following week we'll go up to 9km and 6km. The last two weeks before my trip to Israel will feature 10km swims, which is the farthest I intend to swim in the pool in preparation. I feel that should be sufficient volume to get me to Israel in optimal fitness without exhausting my shoulder too much.

Thank you all again for your support, and please share this project, and our good cause, with friends!



by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters! 

Things are going great, training-wise. I did a short swim in 55-degree water over the weekend, which went well, but am spending most of my time doing intervals in the pool. I'm up to 5-6k workouts, and I spend some of that time doing IM sets, to keep various muscle groups engaged, even though I'll be swimming the actual event freestyle. The swim will take me about 8.5-9 hours, but the longest distance i'm planning for a pool workout is 10k. My past experience in the Willamette was that 10k workouts once a week tended to suffice for twice that distance in fresh water. I hope to get to about 25km a week by early Dec, then start tapering.

Several good friends from the Israel open swimming community have offered to crew and pace-swim for me, and my dad will be Head Handler. 

Other than that, I'm crosstraining by running. Today I ran my first-ever 10k, in a great-for-me time, especially given that I basically coasted on swimming fitness. Races have a great energy that solo runs don't, and, as opposed to swimming, in a race once can high-five spectators, which gives one a huge energy boost. That's one of the things that is amazing, and difficult, about English Channel rules - one can't touch the boat, or another human, and therefore one's spirits must be buoyed from internal resources.

by Hadar Aviram
Hello, Friends and Supporters!

Preparations for the crossing of the Sea of Galilee are well under way. I am swimming longer and harder workouts at the University of San Francisco Koret Center, with their masters team and by myself, and doing weekly open water workouts in the San Francisco Bay, which is several degrees colder than the Sea of Galilee. While the water in Israel is not incredibly cold in winter, an extended swim of up to nine hours exposes one to the cold for lengthy periods. I remember being a bit cold after coming out of the Willamette river in 2012, and the temp there was in the high 60s.

I also have a pilot - Lior Eliyahu - and a motorboat for the crossing, which we have high hopes of doing in a straight line north to south. Lior tells me that, during the winter, the strong east winds across the lake calm down, and odds are we won't have to fight wind and currents. Also, while other swimmers prefer salt water for the buoyancy, I'm fairly buoyant and enjoy swimming in fresh water. The challenges will therefore be the temperature and body mechanics, primarily my left shoulder, which has been known to give me grief in races and ended my Tampa Bay Marathon Swim prematurely in the spring. So, I'm taking particular care in the pool to improve my stroke and ease the pressure off the shoulders.

More updates on the way!



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