A journey of 7 days. Twenty 4x4 jeeps in Israel.
Women from Israel, Jewish women from Jewish Communities around the world who have come to Israel to take part in an amazing journey the length and breadth of the Negev, beginning in Jerusalem and ending in Eilat.
So this is how it was……….
I left everything! One weekend, I left my 6 children and my husband.I left my business, my daily inspection of the building of our house, in Moshav Segula, now in its critical stage - and I traveled!
I joined my jeep together with three other women who were strangers to me, Lilach, Ilana and Tali, and me - Hagit Gabai Amiel, from this point on to be known as Team 6.
To my good fortune, all three women were wonderful. Our journey would have many challenges that I hadn't done before - driving in a stunning region, difficult physical efforts, snappling, ladders and ropes, team missions - in short, everything that I am not!
The journey in 4x4 land jeeps through the Negev with its breath Stopping landscapes; difficult paths that were sometimes even frightening;; keeping eye contact with the other jeeps, and a guide who encouraged and commanded us on with cries of "Give gas! Gas! Gas!"
pushing us on and over the obstacles. Her shouts accompanied me still even after we ended out journey - "Gas! Gas! Go! Go! Don't hesitate! You're going through!"
The most overwhelming feeling of the journey is that of freedom.
Suddenly you don't have to look after anything, don't have to worry about anything, or anyone. Not necessary, nor urgent, don't have to.
Everything about the tour is organized and well planned.
The job of we participants is to drive, to co-operate. We divided the driving between the four of us, ate when we were allowed, and showered when it was possible (which wasn't every day!) We slept wherever had been decided, in conditions also decided for us.
One of the aims of the journey is to release the daily feminine tensions, the need to control
Slowly slowly, some of the women become aware that most of our time we are travelling from one obstacle to another, one challenge to the next, with at every stage, certain things repeating themselves - long lines of jeeps ready to depart, informal gatherings in groups, some groups singing, some dancing, some talking, and of course - pee!
Lots and lots of pee!
During the journey, we got to know a great variety of women between the ages of 20 and 70. I enjoyed the mixing of women "from our land, and from the other countries of the world".
The discussion flowed in every direction, open and pleasant.
For me, there were two special experiences above the conditions ( no regular showers, hunger, the need to pee on every occasion and in every place.).
These two experiences took the form of meetings with two groups.
One group was composed of very special women , 40 -50 years old, from all over the U.S.A, who shared with me their special feeling of meeting with the Israeli women on the journey.
Previously, their impressions had been gained through family visits and touring in Israel.
In the past, they had not experienced the immediate openness, the affectionate and deepening contact they were now making with the Israelis.
They told of the reality of life in the Diaspora for women who wish to maintain Jewish life in a neighbourhood different and not always supportive.
Some of them are married to non-Jewish husbands, and they face serious dilemmas - which holidays can a Jewish/Christian family celebrate?
Should they send their children to Jewish or public schools? Bat/Bar Mitzvas - yes or no? They spoke about the compromise they had made when they married, and with every passing year, their refusal to give up their Judaism, and their contact with and feelings for Israel.
Partnership 2000 is the opportunity for them to guard this connection.
I really hope that in 2009 a representative of Yoav's Partner, Lehigh Valley, will come to participate in the Queen of the Desert.
The second group that impressed me very much was team 4, girls aged 20 who had decided against all odds to leave their homes and their comforts, their jobs and plans for the future, and make aliyah to Israel.
In spite of the difficulties of language, distance, families far away and sometimes opposing, they are receiving degrees in Israeli Universities and planning to make their lives here. Side by side with my admiration and surprise that Zionism still exists, lies the dilemma of a mother - how would I feel if my children were to take such a step and move to another country?
I returned full of energy, strength and slightly improved English.
I met the beauty of my country, and got to know myself again, and to meet the inner me. A hugely enjoyable experience.
Hagit Gabai Amiel,