Last month, four Masa Israel participants joined our Desert Queen team to challenge themselves with a trek through the land of Israel. Three of them share their experiences below.
Sarah Goldstein, 29, New York, Career Israel. Sarah has a BA in graphic design and photography, working in Israel as an intern in a graphic design studio:
Before departing on the Desert Queen experience my stay in Israel so far had been more challenging than expected. I came to Israel with a very strong idea of my self and my goals but moving to a new place usually forces you to question all of those things about your life. And so I found myself confused and disconnected…until Desert Queen.
Spending just one week relinquishing (almost) complete control of my daily activites, among women from all walks of life with all different challenges and perspectives, depending on each other to ‘survive’ in the wilderness of the Negev Desert was truly the most regenerative experience and more than I could have asked for. You really start to see life differently when you’re squatting to pee between two car doors and your friend walks by with a camera to capture the moment. We shared more than a truck. It was a tent sleeping, mountain repelling, night offroading, sunrise wakening, moon loving, picture taking, camel painting, shabbat showering, cola drinking, cigarette sharing, smile giving, nap taking, sunshine warming kick-ass adventure!
I am so proud to have been a part of this amazing adventure with such wonderful people. The connection I now feel with Israel, Israeli women, and my Masa Israel girls is deep and has already had a remarkable affect on my life. My strength and confidence has been replenished and I am truly grateful.
Joanne Picciotto, 24, Guatemala, Career Israel. Joanne has a BA in biology and is working for the Society of the Protection of Nature in Israel:
Desert Queen was an incredible opportunity to get to know Israel in many aspects, its land, its history and most importantly its people. Coming from a small Jewish community in Guatemala I had never interacted with so many Jewish women so intensely!
Spending a good 10 hours a day together for 6 whole days, I understood why Israelis go by the name of “sabras” — rough on the outside but sweet and tasty on the inside! At Desert Queen my heart was constantly pumping fast those days because from one moment to another we were faced with incredible and unexpected surprises.
From entering a romantic cave lit up with tea candles, to a very steep fall, to repelling, all the activities made me feel alive one more than the other! My favorite word on this trip was: wow!!! I am so thankful to have experienced Desert Queen and discover myself next to many other women. I discovered that I have a heart full of love to give and receive. I discovered that whatever I put myself to I can conquer and most importantly I was able to connect with people and create relationships that I know will last forever!
Anna Drelich is from France, volunteering through Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa Coexistence track:
We crossed the desert of Judea and the Negev, from Rishon Zyon to Eilat. The jeep ride included music, laughter, and even a few scary moments on the precarious roads! Still, we were always surrounded by beautiful scenery. Our adventure included many exciting activities, such as rappelling in Mitzpe Ramon, hiking, climbing, and building a kite. We slept in tents in the middle of the Negev, raising our eyes toward a sky filled with stars, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful images in my mind.
On Shabbat we awoke at 4:30 in the morning for a hike with mountain bikes to see the sunrise, followed by painting on cardboard camels! Each meal was more delicious than the last, and the staff did an amazing job of staging everything, including the costumes, muesli in the ruins at night, the torch down in sand dunes, and the Bedouin dinner.
During this week I also met many Israeli women, and some Americans, who taught me a lot. Although more of an adventure, this experience allowed me to grow, to learn from others, and discover things about myself. The self-improvement, friendships, and experiences truly made this expedition one of the most beautiful and intense weeks of my life.