The week-long desert challenge, which included 60 women aged 21-64, was cosponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Partnership 2000 and the Geographic Company in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary.
Throughout the week-long journey, participants rode jeeps and bikes through the desert’s rocky terrain, explored Israel’s craters, visited a combat unit with both men and women, rappelled off mountains, and camped in Bedouin tents. "I’ve spent a good deal of time in Israel, but it was incredible to experience it from the heart of the desert and in the heart of Israel," said one of the winners, Ronit Raier, 23, Bnai Akiva gap-year program alumna and former madricha from South Africa.
Tali Farkas, 22, from Germany, Hannah Zakon, 24, from New Zealand, and Ingrid Abler, 21, from Argentina joined Raier in her victory. The desert challenge also included 10 participants from North America.
Though participants faced many challenges along the way, including sleeping in areas exposed to foxes and then awakening to find their backpacks gone and their cell phones and chocolate bars scattered along nearby mountains, the Masa participants did not find the trek too trying. "We found so much support in the other 56 participants throughout our journey," said Tali, an IDC Herzliya student. "They were like mothers to us."
Winners of the competition received certificates and Columbia-brand sportswear. They were selected to be winners as a result of the spirited contribution they made to the desert challenge experience.
"To see young girls taking such a huge step, leaving their homes, their comfort zones, their families and friends, and spending time in Israel made a huge impact on the other women," said Ronit.
Our new "Queens of the Desert" truly appreciated their Negev victory. Hannah, from the Israel Government Fellows
program, said, "The opportunity to bond with so many other Jewish women inspired me, and competing in the Negev made this experience even more unforgettable."