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).

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International Tourism Conference – Jerusalem – Part 1

Israeli Prime Mininister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing the International Tourism Conference - Jerusalem 2011

PM Netanyahu: We need more tourists than people who live here.

This week I am attending the first International Tourism Conference being held in Jerusalem’s Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center. Focusing both on the changing opportunities and challenges in the global tourism industry, as well as on the unique attractions of Israel (and Jerusalem in particular) as a tourist destination, the conference has drawn hundreds of participants from around the world.

With panels on topics such as “The Role of Media in Generating Tourism,” “The Impact of Technology on the Tourism Industry,” and “Branding Cities,” the conference features politicians such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat alongside media personality Chris Matthews (“Hardball with Chris Matthews”), MTV International founder Bill Roedy and museum directors from around the world.

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Israel Tourism News Roundup

Israel Ministry of Tourism logo. Tour guide. Eshkol. grapes.

Logo of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

I’m going to try to start doing regular posts where I summarize recent news stories with relevance to the tourism industry in Israel. These might have to do with plans the Tourism Ministry is making, events or news about hotels or airlines, or anything that might affect the tour guiding business directly. If any of you come across relevant news stories that you think I might not have seen, please feel free to forward my way! Thanks! And as always, I’d love to hear any responses or opinions in the comments section.

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Thoughts on Tourism in Israel’s Future

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, seen from Manger Square (photo taken from Wikimedia Commons, by Wayne McLean)

One of the questions that I face as I prepare to become a licensed tourguide here in Israel relates to the future of this great country. Uncertainty is a key word that describes the situation of Israel’s future, and it makes preparing for my future career all the more difficult. It also makes my preparations more emotional, while I also delineate between my hopes for my career and my hopes for Israel’s future as a country.

A few recent news stories, that seem narrowly focused on specific laws that affect the industry, instead made me think more about what my career may be like in a future Israel. And they also made me think about what I’d like it to be like.

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Take Me to a Better Place

Electric Cars by Renault being recharged at Better Place's Visitors Center

Many industrial facilities offer interested fans of their products tours of their production facilities. Probably the most common are wineries and breweries, and we have no shortage of either here in Israel.

But many places also have tours of facilities when the product is unique to that area. Whereas there may not be a ton of tours of ice cream production factories, many visitors to Vermont will pay a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Atlanta has the World of Coca-Cola. And does anyone go to Hershey, PA without paying a visit to Hershey Park? (Okay, some of these are more than just factory tours, but that’s how they all began!)

Well, Israel now has a new tour to add to this general variety, but it is also unique in many ways. It is not a food or beverage facility, and is a great advertisement for the high-tech, start-up style endeavor for which Israel has become so well known.

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IMTM Report

Brazilian capoeira and samba at IMTM to promote travel there.

Ever been to a trade show of any kind? Auto show, food industry convention, hotel and hospitality conference or energy industry gathering? Well, the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) is a fairly standard example of this type of event.

I say this only because I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect before I attended it last Wednesday. I mean, I knew it would be a trade show, but I’d never been to one in Israel before. Plus, with a name like that, I wasn’t sure how much would be related to Israel travel in particular and how much would be geared towards tourism to other countries in the region. I also had no idea how relevant it would be for me, as a specifically Israeli tourguide-to-be.

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More Progress

A tour group at the theater in Caesarea, Mediterranean in the background.

Finding a bit more time now, so hope to post some tour updates and more news stories soon. But just a quick summary for now. Tours that I’ve taken but not yet written about: Ein Gedi, southern Dead Sea area (Mt. Sodom), Modiin vicinity (Tel Gezer and stuff related to the Maccabees) and Sharon/southern Carmel region (Apollonia, Dor and Atlit).

And some of the class subjects I may want to discuss here: Geography and Geology of Israel (and how they relate to each other) and fauna. But first…

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A Few Quick Updates

The Judean Hills on a sunny day, seen from Nahal Soreq

It’s getting late, and I have to be up early for our tiyul/trip tomorrow. So this will be a brief post, just to touch on a few quick things, before I hit the sack.

Firstly, a brief update on the exam failure “scandal” I wrote about here. I got a few more “facts” and figures from the head of my course that relate to this story.

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Hopefully a Good Sign

Wild thistle in Ein Hod

Wild thistle in Ein Hod

Though the start of my course was delayed a few weeks, we are supposed to have our first orientation/classes this Friday, December 11. One of the things people always bring up is how this can be a difficult profession, due to its operating largely at the whims of the tourism industry. And that industry naturally has its ups and downs.

Still, I try to remain hopeful, and look out for positive signs.
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