Monday, October 6, 2008

Mimi Avishai's Desert Queen Experience

This year, in honor of Israel's 60th celebration of independence, the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 program joined one of Israel's most innovative and challenging initiatives for women – Geographical Tours "Desert Queen" Annual Jeep Expedition. The expedition took place in the Negev Desert for seven days of extreme sport, obstacle driving, rappelling, a12 Km bike ride into the desert and cliff climbing peppered with Zionism, history and sisterhood.

So what made this expedition so special?

Incredible women from the Israel P2K Partnerships together with our remarkable sisters from Partnership Federations from the Pittsburg, Florida, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Argentina and South Africa joined together to celebrate Israel's 60th year. Sixty women set out with back packs and sleeping bags in Four Wheel Drive jeeps to explore the Negev desert as well as our inner selves for a challenging week of sisterhood, excitement, sharing and learning.

And all the planning, guiding and logistics - by strong, energetic, inspiring women of the Geographical Tours organization and the Jewish Agency.

Our journey took us through the amazing archeological and geographical sites of the Negev desert. We visited Nizanna on the Egyptian border where we learned of their absorption of Ethiopian Youth, and their recycling and environmental programs. We visited a women's combat unit on their base. We learnt of the Nabitean, Biblical, Bedouin and Nomadic way of life. We felt the presence of G-d all around us as we stood looking over the Makhtesh HaKatan (Small Crater) and our guide, Sigal, read a poem to us as we took in the breathtaking scene before us.

Orna and I are from the Arad-Tamar/ New Jersey-Delaware Partnership. We both feel grateful and privileged that we were given the opportunity to represent our Partnership on this occasion. We, as Grandmothers, felt a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment as we mastered each of the challenges and obstacles along the way. We both came out of this experience stronger and prouder – stronger and prouder of being women, stronger and prouder than ever before to be Israeli, and stronger and prouder to be part of P2K.

However, we were both awe-struck and inspired by four remarkable young women on our expedition. Team 4, comprised of Hanna (from New Zealand), Ronit (from South Africa), Tali (from Germany) and Ingrid (from Argentina) are participants in the Jewish Agency Masa Program – a project of the Government of Israel and Jewish communities around the world, represented by the Jewish Agency for Israel which enables young Jews from all over the world to spend a semester to a year in Israel on any of over 160 programs. Three of these young women have completed their time with Masa and have made the decision and commitment to make aliya.

We are starting the New Year with renewed energy, vitality and spirituality. We would like to thank both the Jewish Agency and the Geographical Tours for a wonderful experience. And we would like to wish all our friends, family and Partners and very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year.