Fifteen self-confessed Jewish princesses from England will be swapping their stilettos for combat boots next week. The women, who come from different streams of British Jewry, are taking part in an interactive reality challenge entitled I'm a Jewish Princess... What am I Doing Here? that will see them attempting to rough it in the Judean desert.
Led by former SAS major Ken Hames, the princesses (each of whom has raised 15,000 in sponsors for the British Emunah children's charity) will undertake a series of assignments that will test their physical and leadership skills over a 10-day period. Their progress will be charted daily on the Jewish Princess website (www.jewishprincess.org.uk). Visitors to the site will also be able to vote for their favorite princess; the winner will be crowned on the last day of the contest.
Hames, a TV personality in the UK thanks to documentaries about expeditions like Beyond Boundaries and Jungle Jane, is tight-lipped about the nature of the trials the women will face, but has promised they won't be let off lightly.
"Many of the challenges they'll experience would test the mettle of fit young army recruits," he writes on the website.
That doesn't phase organizer and contestant Madeline Black, 43. "I'm excited about getting my hands dirty for a good cause," she says. "We wanted to do something active to send the message to Jews in the Diaspora that, 50 years on, it's still necessary to be involved with Israeli causes."
Her sentiments are shared by Nancy Dell'olio, the Italian-born Jewish girlfriend of England national soccer team manager Sven Goran Ericsson, who will be joining the competition as a celebrity contestant for the last three days.
"Nancy is passionate about Israel, and was keen to show her support in a hands-on way," explains Black. "The contestants differ in age, level of observance and lifestyle, but they're all driven by a desire to do something for Israel," she said.
The ladies hope that their expedition, which is being filmed for a BBC documentary and being covered by Britain's Sunday Times, will dispel preconceived ideas about Jewish women as high-maintenance, pampered princesses. "Our aim is to show that real Jewish princesses are tough, dynamic and practical," explains Black.
Nonetheless, the princesses admit that surviving outside their comfort zone will be trying.
"I've never slept anywhere without being protected by secondary glazing ... and I'm scared of snakes," Black said at a recent Jewish Princess style shoot for the Sunday Times. For Samantha Pearlman, 19, managing without her beauty regime could prove the biggest test. "I spend 60 a month on my nails, and my last visit to the hairdresser cost 260," she confessed at the shoot.
To follow the women's highs and lows as they attempt to overcome their princess-like tendencies and survive in the desert, log on to www.jewishprincess.org.uk between February 25 and March 8.