Jewish princesses set to compete for Desert Queen title in the Negev

Jewish princesses set to

These queens will not be wearing crowns, eating on china dishes or sitting on fancy furniture. These queens will be bouncing around a Jeep 4X4 in the desert. At the end of October, Jews from around the world will unite in the Negev for the Jewish Agency for Israel and Geographical Tour's Desert Queen competition. The Desert Queen is the latest installment to Partnership 2000's "People to People" initiative which connects individuals in Israel and abroad. The competition tests women physically and mentally through various challenges. The queens drive a 4X4 Jeep convoy, hike difficult terrain, and sleep under the stars. It's really not about the jeep tours, however, explains Partnership 2000 Director and 2008 Desert Queen Andrea Arbel. "The expedition is about women's empowerment, and looking inward," she says. The Desert Queen competition started in 1999 as a way for Jordanian and Israeli women to promote peace. In the years that followed, Desert Queen expeditions have taken place everywhere from Turkey to Thailand to South Africa. In 2008, when looking for a unique way to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday, the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 program teamed up with Geographical Tours to hold a Desert Queen Expedition in Israel. Israel's first Desert Queen Expedition succeeded with flying colors, explains Arbel. "It was one of the most meaningful experiences I've ever had, and I don't mean that lightly," she says. "Last year the most amazing thing was that the Israeli women rediscovered their Zionism, falling in love with Israel all over again, looking through the eyes of overseas women," Arbel said. "On the other hand, overseas women, even those that have been to Israel a million times, got to know Israel in a whole new way," Arbel continued. The 2009 Desert Queens, a third of whom come from overseas and two-thirds of whom are Israeli, will tackle the Negev from October 27 to November 3.