Through the wonders of Internet, Judy Mizrachi, a woman I have never met, sent me a message on Facebook that in a “pre-friended” era would have constituted stalking. Apparently while checking out our mutual friend, Sheryl Edelman’s, Facebook pictures she was struck by my name- no not Saralee believe it or not, but Rosenberg… her maiden name. She investigated me further as if scanning the list at Ellis Island to see, per chance, if I was a long lost next of kin. I was not (in no small part because Rosenberg is my married name), but she did pick up that I am author of funny books… which is exactly why I AM on Facebook and why I read all my messages.
Judy said that my books looked like so much fun (they are!!!) and suggested that since she is a lot of fun, too, I might want to write about her and her very unique business on my blog. Gotta hand it to anyone who is that direct! Go Judy!!!!
Anyway, I did some Internet investigating of my own and discovered that Judy does indeed run a fascinating company called Women Walkers Travel Services. Basically she offers walking tours for women in Israel. But not just any walking tours- they are intended for women like me who are dying to rediscover their inner 19-year olds by bonding with other women and being led by very hot Israeli tour guides on unforgettable 11-day trips that promise laughter, excitement, challenges, and life changing moments. What a great concept! I wanted to know more and interviewed Judy via e-mail. Here is what I learned.
What inspired you to create a business that urged women to find their inner-19
Most everything included in the tour, is from experiences I had as a 19-year-old
living in Israel back in 1971 exploring the country from one end to the next with my
friends. That year had a profound impact on my life: I was adventurous, fun-seeking,
uninhibited and unfettered. Basically, I’m still that same 19-year-old, stuck in a 56-year-old woman’s body, desperately trying to go back in time. I drag other women along to help fulfill my own selfish fantasy. None of them have complained so far.
How would you say that your tour program has changed since its inception?
For one thing, the hikes have gotten much more rigorous and exciting. I want the
women to feel empowered by their accomplishments on the trip. For another, I started
out with a tour guide who was 50 years old. That does not satisfy the imaginings
of us 19-year-olds. All my tour guides are now required to be no older than 29
In what ways have your participants influenced the way the tour has evolved?
On my very first tour, five of the women came with hiking poles, which I had never seen before. At first, I was a bit freaked out since these were older women and I thought they were using canes (not something that you would ideally like to see on a hiking tour). But after realizing how useful they are in helping with balance issues,I began recommending them on subsequent tours and they’ve been a big hit. In addition, since the first tour, I have found that the women are most happy when they are challenged and so I have increased the length and difficulty of the hikes.
When did you first begin the Jesus Walk and how did that come about?
I am actually doing my first Jesus Walk this coming April with a group of 9 women. I came across the Jesus Trail tour on Google. It is the brainchild of two young hikers: one an Israeli Jewish entrepreneur and the other, a Mennonite from Philadelphia. They also found each other quite accidentally on the internet and had come up with the idea of mapping out the trails that Jesus would have walked from his home in Nazareth to the many places that Christians visit on a typical tour. Instead of going from sight to sight by bus, the tour enables Christians to actually walk on the same paths that Jesus would have walked. While my women-only tours include both Christian and Jewish participants, a Christian hiking tour appealed to me since it also addresses a special niche. The feedback has been tremendous and I look forward to showing Christian tourists an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Israel.
Are your tour groups made up of all Jewish or all Christian women, or are they
The beauty of the tour is that there is no religious bent so I do get a mixed group of
both Christian and Jewish women which has truly been a wonderful experience.As a group we visit both Christian and Jewish sights which often promotes better understanding of one another and wonderful dialogue.
Would you say that your program is best suited for a woman who has traveled to
Israel before, or one who has never been?
When I first began the tours, I was sure that it would attract only those women who had been to Israel before. But I have found that many of my participants are first time visitors and had actively pursued a nontraditional tour. I think that’s the way that tourism is headed- towards small-group more active hands-on tourism. I firmly believe that the only way to immerse oneself in the culture of a place is by allowing one’s feet to wander along then paths.
Can you accommodate women who are not physically fit or who may have
This is a trip for fit and active women. Unfortunately, despite the amount of time I
spend describing the degree of difficulty, I still have women joining with physical ailments, such as injured knees. When this happens, we do our best to help them. In general, the women are very supportive of one another.
You say that the trip is life changing. Do you find that women return to embrace their religion more, or is the impact more holistic?
It’s interesting that many women who choose the tour are going through a major life change, such as a divorce, a death, an illness, etc. It seems as though they picked the tour first, because they wanted to go to Israel, next, because it was an all women group and last because it presented challenges. Over the course of the tour we spend evenings talking and getting to know one another and becoming a real family. This can be quite healing.The hikes afford an opportunity to push the boundaries and to experience real empowerment. Israel oozes with spirituality and it is impossible not to feel it at some point on the tour. Everyone returns home changed in some way as a result of all of this.
I’ve had so many funny and meaningful incidents that I feel that I could almost write
a book. One woman from Australia who joined my tour had a physical impairment
in which she retained water in her legs. The first day I saw her, I noticed a limp and
was a bit taken aback. But she was a real trooper and managed to keep up with the
group despite her disability. Then, one night, we did a moonlit hike and I saw her that
she was frantic because she had complete night blindness. I made the decision that
she should probably skip this one hike when one of the other participants, grabbed
her by her arm and said that she would help her through the hike. This wonderful
woman held her arm and gave her minute by minute directions as to where to place her
feet each step of the way. The two of them finished this difficult three hour hike side-by-side. It was very poignant and a true testimony to the strength and compassion that we women have.
And now a funny memory. As most of the women on this tour are 40 and older, we inevitably are in need of a bathroom, or at the very least a non-conspicous spot out in nature to relieve our burdensome bladders every half hour or so. The bus driver and guide understand
this almost immediately and make great efforts to stop whenever one of us requests. On one tour, the bus was acting up so instead of arriving at our destination in an hour, it took two. This was after a long arduous day and it was late at night. We were all totally wiped out so we all fell asleep and no one asked for a pit stop. Upon arrival at our destination, the bus driver stood up and with great pride and candor and in his broken English struggled to give us what he must have considered to be
the ultimate compliment: “You amazing womens. This first time I drive two hours and not stop for you pee.”
Do you ever aspire to lead walking tours in other countries?
In fact, my current tour guide does hiking tours in China and in Russia and we are
discussing the possibility of beginning hikes there as well.
Do you get asked to lead tours for families? Do you think you will do that?
I am doing my first small family tour this summer in August. Right now there are
five members and we’re waiting to hear if more plan on joining. It’s great fun because I’m able to work together with them to plan a customized tour that they are involved in. For me hearing their excitment about going to Israel and seeing it in a most unique way is wonderful.
If you would like to know more about this extraordinary walking tour/friendshipmaking/trip of a lifetime, check out Judy’s site: www.womenwalkers.com. email is firstname.lastname@example.org Phone is 888-340-3867.