In A Place Where There Are No Men

Israel Tour Guide Joel Haber guiding in Even Yisrael

Guiding a group in Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood

In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. — Ethics of the Fathers 2:5

I’ve always appreciated the above quote, taken from Pirkei Avot, a book from the Mishnah, full of useful proverbs to live by. And while I think a better translation of the word ish here might be (the non-sexist) “person” instead of “man,” my preferred translation lacks oomph. Essentially, this is a charge to stop looking around and pointing fingers about what needs to be done. If you see something that needs to be done and no one else is doing it, get off your butt and do it!

What does this have to do with Israeli tourism and/or tour guiding here? As you know, even from the start this blog was not just focused on tourism in Israel, but also on the profession of tour guiding here (and in particular, the tour guide training course, while I was in it).

One of the complaints that I hear from other guides, especially when they are starting out, is how little the course gives us practical training for how to work and succeed as a tour guide. Yes, we had a few hours of class that were designed to teach us a bit about presentation techniques, but they were woefully inadequate in my course (and I’d guess in others’ as well).

I’ve often questioned why there is no “staj” (the word used in Israel for an internship) for tour guides. In my opinion, the ideal would be to allow student guides (perhaps only in their second year) to work officially, at a reduced rate, as acknowledged Guides-in-Training. But with the protectionist attitudes of many guides here, I understand that policy is unlikely to fly.

But in the absence of that, I’d like to see every tour guide student required to shadow a licensed guide for a number of days. Perhaps he could even get the chance to “guide” a certain site under the licensed guide’s observation. Obviously, this would need to be done with the permission of the tourists being guided.

I’ve mentioned this to a number of people, and while they agree in theory, they also feel this would be an impossible initiative to get approval for as well. So I’ve decided to step into the breach.

If you are a tour guide student in Israel, have completed your first year of studies, and are interested in shadowing me for a day of guiding, you are hereby invited to contact me. We can discuss possible dates, and I will need to clear it with my tourists for that day. If you are interested, I will consider finding a spot for you to guide during the day as well (but no promises). Also feel free to forward this to other students.

Additionally, I know there are many guides out there who are more experienced than I am. So if you are a tour guide who likes this idea, I encourage you to make the same offer. If you’d like, you too may contact me, and I will be happy to send some of those who contact me to you as well. This way we can spread them around, and perhaps you might be more suitable to them than I am.

And if you are a tourist who joins me, I thank you in advance for your willingness to allow me to help future tour guides!

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