Today in Israeli History: Jerusalem is Our Capital

On the corner of King George and Hillel Streets, the building where the Knesset met in Jerusalem.

The Knesset’s early home in Jerusalem, Frumin House

I have had the distinct pleasure this week of guiding at a number of sites throughout Jerusalem where I don’t frequently guide. Among them was a visit to the Supreme Court building on Givat Ram, in the government complex.

In that part of the city are numerous buildings connected to all three branches of government. The Supreme Court building connects via a straight path to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), and nearby a cluster of other government buildings house the various Ministry offices. Other national (or significant) institutions, such as the Israel Museum, Hebrew University and Bank of Israel are also situated in the area. This area is the governmental seat in the national capital.

But while Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, it was not always a given that it would be such. When the Knesset first formed, near the end of the War for Independence, the Knesset met in Tel Aviv in a building near the beach where the Opera Tower stands today. Furthermore, the State of Israel had been declared in Tel Aviv. But clearly, the founders of our State always considered Jerusalem the capital. Circumstances simply conspired to keep them in Tel Aviv.

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Why You Should Hire a Tour Guide in Israel – Part 2

Car in front of our jeep in the Golan Heights

Even when you go off-road in this country, you might hit traffic!

In Part 1 of this post, I highlighted two of my top five reasons you should hire a tour guide for your visit to Israel. I spoke about a tour guide’s ability to take you to places off the beaten track — places you would probably never have visited on your own, but which were still well worth the visit. I also mentioned our constantly up-to-date knowledge of what is happening in this country.

Here are three more types of added value that tour guides in Israel can offer you.

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ONLY in Israel – Top 5

View Across the Dead Sea. Fun Joel Haber. Israel Tour Guide.

A View Over the Dead Sea from Mount Sodom

Frequently, you hear people comment “Only in Israel,” in response to various things they overhear or see here. Often, it is meant to try to capture some of the unique aspects of the character of the Israeli people. But as we all know, these things don’t only happen in Israel, even if they are somewhat demonstrative and capture the spirit of the country.

For that reason, however, I wanted to write a post about the things that you truly can only see in Israel. Nowhere else in the world. Tour guides typically speak in hyperbolic extremes. I know that I am certainly “guilty” of this at times. We’ll tell you how a spot is the highest, largest, newest or furthest south of its kind. But while those extremes may be interesting, and can be mildly significant, they rarely are very important. They are typically little more than gimmicks to maintain interest.

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Why Visit Israel?

Israeli flags and Jerusalem String Bridge. Fun Joel Israel Tour Guide.

Sun, Flags and the String Bridge - Jerusalem

On this Yom HaAtzmaut / Israel Independence Day, I’d like to write about something that might seem obvious to some of my readers. But it is far from obvious to all. Why visit Israel at all? Seems that as a licensed Israeli tour guide, it is something that I should think about and have an answer to.

Lucky for you, I do!

I raise the question, because yesterday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a university student from the Netherlands who is writing her thesis on tourism in Israel. Among other things, she asked me an interesting question.

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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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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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When a Handshake Isn’t Just a Handshake

Handshake photo taken from Wikimedia Commons. (In public domain.)

I don’t know about you, but I shake hands with people all the time, and I barely even think about it. Sure, I’ve heard the potential origins of the handshake as a sign of peace, indicating that neither person is holding a weapon. But in our society, shaking hands is as common as, well… a handshake. Most of us clasp hands with others multiple times on a daily basis.

But last week, a handshake that may or may not have taken place highlighted just how delicate and sensitive life can be in the Middle East. And a few days later, I received a comment on a blog post that I’d written entirely innocently, that drove this point home on a more personal level.

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A Short History of the Land of Israel

A piece of Edomite glass (C 2100 years old) that I found on a dig in Beit Guvrin.

Last week’s and this week’s classes have both dealt with general overviews to the land of Israel, dealing with such things as roads, borders, broad history, and the like. I’ll break down some of the other information in a future post, but I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a brief history of the different periods of history that we encounter here. This way, if I later refer to something as taking place in a certain period, I can refer you back to this brief overview!

Some of these are broad eras that apply to all of civilization, and others are specific to this location. The latter is the case the more modern we get. Also, in some cases, the period may start at different times in different parts of the world. (For example, Muslim period begins at different times in different parts of this area, depending on when the Muslims conquered various lands.)

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Israel Tourism for the Sportsman (or Sportswoman)

(Taken and modified from the Tour d'Israel website)

Israel’s tourism industry traditionally revolves around a lot of things: archaeology, history, religion, etc. Straightforward resort tourism (beaches, etc.), outdoor/hiking trips and luxury spa vacations have also been mainstays of the industry for quite some time.

More recently, there has been growth in areas such as culinary and/or wine tourism. Adventure travel (taking the outdoorsy to the next level) has also seen a bit of advancement.

But how about straightforward sports tourism? Well, a few recent ventures indicates this may be part of the future mosaic of the Israeli tourism business.

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