Walking Warrior

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." Judy Mizrachi says Amen.

Five years ago, this 57-year-old Bexley mother of four decided it was time to recapture her youth-specifically, the year she spent in Israel as a 19-year-old college student. It was a time when her weekends were consumed with crisscrossing the country, hiking, biking, rafting and, she recalled with a smile, "seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth."

Mizrachi's love of Israel comes from more than just a summer of exploring. After graduating from college, she met and married an Israeli, and she and Moshe will celebrate their 35th anniversary in February.

The pair had four children, and as the Jewish religion suggests, each traveled to Israel on a birthright trip-a 10-day adventure to explore their father's homeland. Mizrachi remembers the pang of longing as she packed their bags, knowing what they were about to experience and wishing that she and others could, too.

But instead of simply planning a return trip, Mizrachi gave birth to a business. Her brainchild, WomenWalkers Travel Service, is a tour company that invites other women on a journey through the rugged terrain and rich history that is Israel.

The adventure includes all of the elements that brought Mizrachi so much joy-hiking over mountains, riding camels through desert canyons, bathing in streams and waterfalls, rafting in the Jordan River, floating in the Dead Sea.

Before the company's launch, Mizrachi spent months researching which trips were already available. "I was relentless, on the internet 24/7," she said.

She even spent a year working for a tour company in Washington, D.C., that offered similar trips. Then she broke out on her own, confident that her dream could become reality.

"I was so excited about it, so comfortable with the plan I had put together," she said. "There was no doubt in my mind that everyone would have a good time."

And dozens have, including C.C. Corsini, a fashion executive from Manhattan. Last December, Corsini was feeling restless, and wanted to get away. Her wanderlust led her to Mizrachi's website.

"Israel felt like the farthest place on Earth-just what I was looking for," she said. "And when I spoke with Judy about the tour, I was enamored by her enthusiasm so I signed up."

Corsini joined a 13-day tour that took her from Tel Aviv to the Western Wall and several spots between. And while it was no spa vacation (the women stayed in hostels) Corsini enjoyed every minute.

"I would highly recommend it," she said. "Everything was very well thought out, well planned, and Judy was sort of like a teacher, sharing her knowledge of the country in a very passionate way."

Mizrachi's customers have come from places around the world, including Holland, Australia, Switzerland and England. They vary in age, experience and physical prowess. But she says she's amazed by the will and determination of those who join her to experience Israel in its most natural state.

"One woman showed up with polio, and I was afraid the trek would be too taxing for her," Mizrachi said. "But she looked like she had heart, and that's all that mattered. I've met so many fascinating women, and their accomplishments really amaze me."

Mizrachi plans to expand her menu of tours to include men, along with offering tours of the deserts of Egypt and Jordan. But she admits it'll be hard to recreate the camaraderie that comes when women converge.

"Something magical happens," she said, "when women are together."

Watch Andrea Cambern's "Female Focus" weekdays at 5 p.m. on 10TV News HD.