Q&A: Which Tour Guide Course is the Best?

My tourguide class on Mount Meron, overlooking Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and Tzefat (Safed).

I recently received a question from a reader, Baruch, about the various courses for tour guides in Israel, and I felt it would be relevant to share my answers with all of you. Following my response, he also had some follow-up questions, which I will also share and answer here.

But let me preface what I write by saying that I don’t have that much knowledge of the other courses, other than mine. I know a bit about a few, and will try to give as much info as I have. But this is far from a comprehensive answer!

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On Politics, Squid and Israeli Tourism

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (photo in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Many of you may have heard the public flap that occurred when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel arrived in Israel this week to celebrate the bar mitzvahs of his son and nephew. In case you haven’t, I’ll summarize.

While in Eilat, Emanuel and family ate a seafood dinner in a fancy restaurant, then passed the bill over to a representative of the Israel Ministry of Tourism to pay. Or did he? In a rapid response to the news story, the Ministry quickly denied the allegations.

So why am I raising this story here? I actually have two points to raise.

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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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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 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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By the Numbers

"Light around the Bend" - Roman amphitheater at Beit Guvrin

There’s been plenty of coverage, of late, about the latest Israeli tourism numbers in 2009. And anytime there is a drop in the number of tourists from the previous year, it will be at least somewhat worrisome to people who make their living (or hope to down the road) within the industry.

At the same time, however, there seems to be a lot of good and/or hopeful news in the figures as well. That, and the fact that I am still two years away from fully depending on this industry for my income, give me reason to remain my typically optimistic self.

So let’s examine some of the numbers, as well as a number of trends and changes in the Israeli tourism industry.

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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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Should I be Concerned?

My tourguide course being led on our first tiyul

There is obviously a tremendous amount of material that the tourguide course covers, both experiential and more academic. And when the two years of the course come to a close, there is still a large and intense exam that each student needs to pass in order to become licensed. People often mention how difficult they’ve heard this exam is (there are both written and oral portions to be passed). But I’ve always told them I wasn’t too worried about it.

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