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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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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Review: The Written Exam (Dec. 2011)

Title Page of the Israel Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for potential tour guides

The cover page of the written licensing exam

As most of you know, I took the written portion of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for tour guides this past Sunday, December 4. (For my posts on preparing for the exam see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.) Since one of the focuses of this blog is to provide information to others who are interested in taking the tourguide course in Israel, I wanted to fill you all in a bit on this past administration of the exam.

For starters, I will say that I feel really good about my performance on the exam, and am fairly certain that I will pass. Obviously, there is no way of knowing for sure until I hear back from them (probably in another 2-3 weeks), but I’ll say that I’ll be relatively surprised if I don’t pass. Mainly this is because, while I would not say this exam was easy, I don’t think it was particularly tough, nor did I think there was any part of it that was “out there” or designed to screw with us. It was fairly straightforward, and I feel like I was about as prepared as I could be. I can’t really imagine getting a test that would be preferable to this one, which is why I would be disappointed if I failed this one.

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On the Licensing Exam – Part 4 – Good Preparation Tool

Biblical Backgrounds. Geobasics in the Land of the Bible. Israel Tour Guide.

The Geobasics book from Biblical Backgrounds, Inc.

Way back in the first installment of this series, I promised that I would write a post about a specific study aid that I had come across and which I felt was an excellent tool. Actually, however, this post is about a whole suite of products that are available for sale from a small company called Biblical Backgrounds, Inc.

You won’t find much about the company on their website, though who they are is not the important thing. Rather, what they have created is an in-depth and rather unique way to understand the Land of Israel. Using their tools, you gain a deeper understanding of the events of the Bible (seemingly the main goal of the company), but you also can better learn and comprehend the extra-Biblical history and archaeology of the Holy Land.

So what do they offer?

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On the Licensing Exam – Part 3 – How I’m Preparing

Title Page of the Israel Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for potential tour guides

The cover page of the written licensing exam

In this edition of this mini series of posts, I want to discuss a little bit about my strategy in preparing to take the Ministry of Tourism exam to become a licensed tour guide in Israel. Hopefully this will be helpful to others who are going through the course, which was always one of my goals when I started this blog.

As most of you probably don’t know, I used to work in the test prep field, teaching GMATs and LSATs for The Princeton Review. I did that for many years in both New York City and Los Angeles, and have continued to do a bit of that here in Israel, also moving on to other tests such as the GRE and SAT. So whereas I recognize that this licensing exam is vastly different than those highly standardized tests, I still feel that I have some insight into test preparation methods. And hopefully I’m also correct that it has made me fairly good at taking tests!

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On the Licensing Exam – Part 2 – What’s On It?

Title Page of the Israel Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for potential tour guides

The written part of the licensing exam

I’ve spoken many times about the licensing exams that we all need to pass before we can become licensed tour guides here in Israel. But I realized that I never have really discussed much about what is actually on the exams! So as part of this little series on my preparations for the exam, I wanted to summarize for you what is on the two licensing exams I’ll be taking over the next few months.

By the way, I say licensing exams, in plural, because there is both a written exam and an oral one. I’ll fill you in on both in this post.

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On the Licensing Exam – Part 1

Title Page of the Israel Ministry of Tourism licensing exam for potential tour guides

The cover page of the written licensing exam

A while back, when I was just starting the tour guide course, I wrote a couple of posts about the licensing exam and the overall pass/fail rate on them. That was over a year and a half ago, and since then I have not written much on the subject. But now as I approach the end of my course, it is getting down to the time when I need to begin preparing for the exam. (I will be taking the written exam at the end of November.)

So I wanted to write a bit more about the exam, pass/fail rates and, most importantly, how I am preparing for the exam. I will do this in a short series of posts, of which this is the first.

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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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Update / Questions

Logo of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Okay, so first of all, I’m really sorry it has taken me so long to post anything here. Things were pretty busy around here with the course and life. But I am going to try to post more frequently here. I’ll just start trying to write shorter posts!

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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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