Jewish sailors arrive in Brac for Shabbat

From left, Liron Lavi, Itay Lldis, Ofer Rozenblat and Matan Dahan, with their boat in the background, on Cayman Brac. - Photo: Sister Islands News Agency

Four Israeli army friends living out a childhood dream of travelling Christopher Columbus’s passage through the Caribbean ended up in Cayman Brac on Friday.

“It was amazing to do the Shabbat night there at the Temple Beth Shalom behind the Mango Manor Inn. The people are super kind,” said Ofer Rozenblat, speaking to the Cayman Compass by phone from the Brac.

Rozenblat, who was sailing with friends Liron Lavi, Itay Ildis and Matan Dahan, all in their 20s, said the group had no sailing experience other than what they had picked up after purchasing a boat in Guatemala. When they happened on Cayman Brac by accident, they realised it was Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest. And that is just what the team did, rest and relax on the Brac, at the home of photographer Ward Scott.

Rozenblat said the group’s journey began in Tel Aviv. They flew by plane to California in December 2018, where they bought a van and turned it into a camper in which they drove around Central America before ending up in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, they decided to purchase a boat and sail the Caribbean.

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They soon found a 40-foot, double-mast French Amel boat, which they named ‘Marlene’, a love ballad inspired by a wartime romance that Rozenbalt said his mother used to sing.

Rozenblat said the friends spent the next two months carrying out repairs. When repairs were completed, the team spent the next two weeks on a lake learning to operate the boat.

He said they figured that since they had been in the army, they could accomplish anything, and taking on this big trip was just another adventure for them.

The group travelled from Guatemala to Belize to Mexico, before ending up in a marina in Cuba.

They left the marina to go fishing, but about 40 miles out to sea, they realised that all of their fishing gear, snorkelling and scuba equipment had been stolen.

They said they “accidentally” ended up in Cayman Brac, where Rozenblat said people welcomed them with open arms and helped them out.

The group are due to set sail for Jamaica on Tuesday afternoon.

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