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posted Nov 10, 2011

Dragon boat racing started in China over 2,500 years ago in religious ritual and celebration, possibly involving battles between dragon boat crews. Dragons were traditionally regarded as presiding over water and rainfall, so the ferocious-looking dragon designs were added to frighten away evil water spirits.

Modern dragon boat racing gained popularity beyond China in the 1990s and in 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation was created. There are currently 62 member countries and territories, including Israel, where the first ever Dragon Boat Israel Festival will be held on May 17 and 18th, 2012.

In 1996, Dr. Donald McKenzie put together a dragon boat team in Vancouver to study the impact of upper body exercise on women treated for breast cancer. The team members had such a great time that they continued to paddle even after the study concluded. Their enthusiasm spread throughout the breast cancer community. Competing in friendly rivalry, these teams demonstrate that there can be active, productive and fun-filled life after breast cancer. Dragon boating has become a community event, families and friends cheering from the sidelines and enjoying the festive atmosphere. An important aspect of dragon boating is fundraising for local charities. One of Dragon Boat Israel's goals is to foster a greater connection to northern Israel, and the two charities that will be supported, Youth Futures and [email protected], focus on at-risk youth.

 As word of Dragon Boat Israel spreads among breast cancer survivor communities, teams and individual paddlers are coming together for a unique and historic event that will be held on the Sea of Galilee. The Dragon Boat Israel Festival will include a fantastic kick-off showcasing Israeli food, wine, scenery, and entertainment. Whether you are interested in paddling, or would like to cheer from the shore, join us in Israel next May!

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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