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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Israel's first dragon-boat festival

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'The ultimate team sport' makes its debut at the Sea of Galilee and draws fun-seeking, first-time visitors to Israel.

Dragon-boat racing -- the fastest-growing water sport in the world -- made its debut in Israel at the country's first Dragon Boat Festival on Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) on May 17-18, 2012.

"The whole thing about dragon boating is you don't need to know what you're doing," says Debbie Halton Weiss, chairwoman of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, Canada, and organizer of Israel's first dragon boat festival. "In about 10 minutes, you just come together as a team and have a great time."

The event also raised money for refurbishing a school in northern Israel.

Traditionally made of teak and adorned with decorative Chinese dragonheads and tails, dragon boats hold 20 to 22 paired paddlers, a drummer at the bow facing the paddlers and a sweep, or steerer, at the rear.

Many of the participants, from Canada and other countries, had never been to Israel before. Sometimes referred to as the "ultimate team sport," dragon-boat racing originated in China more than 2,000 years ago and was preserved as a folk ritual. In 1986, dragon boats were sent from Hong Kong to Canada's Expo 86 and drew international attention. Dragon-boat racing now draws thousands of participants in 70 countries -- or make that 71.

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