Exploring by foot: hiking through Israel creates a stronger bond with the country.
Where the tradition started is anyone’s guess, but women in America like to kick back and spend “girls only” time together. Now, due to an increase in disposable income, vacation companies recognize that career women, who are marrying late, or not at all, are important customers. Tour companies, large and small, are now giving these women safe and interesting travel experiences – among other like-minded “girls.”
While the idea of Italy, Mexico or France may appeal to women travelling without male escorts, exotic destinations like Israel are largely overlooked. Helping encourage more women to experience the Holy Land on foot is Judy Mizrachi from the United States, who founded WomenWalkers Travel two years ago. Since then, she’s brought seven small groups of women to Israel and is set for the next group to arrive this September, before the Jewish New Year.
While American Jews travel to Israel frequently, Mizrachi finds that a significant number of non-Jewish women from all over the world are looking to experience Israel in an alternative way. She tells ISRAEL21c that she does very little advertising for her organized hiking tour, yet women seek her out from around the world. They include women from the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and Holland. Sometimes women even bring their daughters.
Nature and hikes
Mizrachi’s admiration for the Land of Israel started after visiting Israel while in university. She loved the nature and hikes she experienced, and later found she could keep the connection to Israel alive through hiking tours. Why women only? “After doing a bit of research it appeared that women are the ones making most travel decisions, and also because I believe that this kind of shared experience is a great ‘girlfriend’ type trip,” she says.
Depending on the season, Mizrachi’s girls usually spend a few days on foot in the verdant Galilee region in Israel’s north; then there are desert hikes, which include sleeping in an authentic Bedouin tent, and of course time set aside to float in the Dead Sea, and to climb Masada. Hiking from three to six hours a day on established trails, Mizrachi believes such an adventure is “one of the most meaningful and exciting ways to see Israel.”
The effects on the women visitors are profound, she says: “The majority of tourism in Israel is the traditional get-on-the-bus, get-off-the-bus tours where Israel’s natural resources – its beautiful trails, mountains, deserts – are seen flying by through the glass pane of an air-conditioned bus,” explains Mizrachi.
Walking the land
“Conservation and preservation issues are rarely discussed and even if they are, they are difficult to comprehend from the confines of a 50-seat motor coach. Nature and culture on these tours are superseded by museums, archeology, churches and shopping sprees,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
Mizrachi founded WomenWalkers to give women an alternative experience, close to the Israel that she fell in love with: “One of the reasons that I established WomenWalkers Travel was so that participants could be exposed to the unparalleled beauty, meet the local inhabitants, and experience the ‘natural’ Israel. By walking the land, we meet the locals, learn about the flora, fauna, animal life and develop a bond with the land.”
It’s through the land under foot says Mizrachi, that “a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Israel’s limited natural resources is gained, and a greater appreciation and awareness of the country’s struggles are made more visible.”