Exploring Herod’s Tomb

Geometric tiled floor and stone tub.

Opus Sectile tiled floor and Herod’s private bathtub. (Photo courtesy of Howie Osterer)

Herod the Great is a tour guide’s dream. He is such a colorful and complex character that he offers as many good stories as amazing sites to marvel at. He was an unparalleled builder, a bloodthirsty madman who killed many members of his own family, an egotist with major insecurities, a paranoid who suspected both Rome and the Jews of hatred, a brilliant businessman, and a tenacious ruler, to name just a few of his more significant aspects.

Generally, tour guides explore different aspects of King Herod’s character via different sites. But it’s difficult to visit a single site that fully captures his complexity. Until now, that is. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has just opened a special exhibit entitled Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey. And while I can’t say that it covers all sides of Herod’s life, it does a great job of building a multifaceted portrait of the king.

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A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Israel Tourism. Tour Guide. Fun Joel Haber. Beit Shean Amphitheater - Vomitorium.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel (taken at Beit Shean amphitheater)

I wanted to update you all about the exam process. For starters, I am proud and excited to announce that I passed the written exam! I got the news on the morning of January 1st, so what a great way to start the New Year! In fact, the test was very straightforward, with no real curve balls (as I wrote previously), and there was a fairly high passing rate.

Additionally, earlier this week I received the appointment for my meeting at the Ministry of Tourism for my oral exam. I will actually be the first in my class (I believe) to present — 9 AM on Thursday January 26, in just over 2 weeks. I feel relatively well-prepared, but I definitely have more work to do in preparation. Both in terms of preparing my guiding, and my itinerary for the day, as well as general prep for the open question section of the oral.

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Israel Mystery Photo #10

Another Israel Mystery Photo. Picture. Tourism. Tourguide. Tour Guide. Joel Haber. Fun Joel.

Look familiar? Many of you have seen this before! Guess where it is!

That time again… Another Israel Mystery Photo. This one is one that I think many of you have probably seen but perhaps didn’t look that closely at. So I look forward to seeing how many of you can recognize it, and also to telling you about it in the next Israel Mystery Photo post!

But what about last week’s mystery photo? Well, many fewer guesses, possibly due to how late I posted it. Benny, however, was correct — it was indeed the covering of Abraham’s tomb in Ma’arat HaMachpelah / The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. I bet Aaron is kicking himself for not recognizing that one; you were so close, dude, and yet didn’t quite get it!

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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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Walking Through First Temple-Era Jerusalem

A piece of the wall that surrounded Jerusalem in the time of King Hezekiah.

Our siyur (tour) this past Tuesday started in my backyard, almost literally. We met at the Tayelet / Haas Promenade, a mere 5-minute walk from my apartment in beautiful Arnona, Jerusalem. This scenic outlook offers an excellent spot to view the geography of ancient Jerusalem. From there, we went to a semi-hidden and little known spot called Ketef Hinnom (Shoulder of Hinnom, a valley in Jerusalem), then hiked through Gei Ben-Hinnom / the Hinnom Valley, and came out at the bottom of Ir David / City of David. We spent the rest of the day winding our way up, down and back up again inside this complex and interesting archaeological site.

I am not going to go into too much detail about Ir David, especially since I already discussed it a bit in this post here, but I did want to discuss a few interesting points from throughout the day. I also want to discuss two recent news stories that relate to things we learned about.

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Tour: “In the Footsteps of David and Shimshon”

Overlooking the Shefela (Lowlands) from Beit Meir on a cloudy day.

We had our first siyur (tour) this past Tuesday. Entitled “In the Footsteps of David and Shimshon (Samson),” it really encompassed a few different subjects that all related to the area around the city of Beit Shemesh. We also spent some time at the beginning of the day in moshav Beit Meir, at the very end tip of one of the ridges of the Judean Hills. This gave us the chance to get a good overview of the geography of the land (though it would have been a much better view if the day was sunnier, rather than alternately cloudy and rainy, with only brief respites of sunshine).

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