Monday late morning into early afternoon, I started receiving calls, texts, and whatsapp messages from family and friends asking if I’m okay. (I was perfectly safe at the time, tooling around the northern Shomron. Ah, the irony.) Apparently the news and rumour mill was reporting that a female, English speaking tour guide from Efrat had been attacked by an Arab near Jaffa Gate. The details fit, so the people around me started to worry. It wasn’t me, but a talented, hardworking friend, an expert on Jerusalem, who was hurt but will recover physically, although I imagine that the trauma might take a bit longer to pass.
I had, as it happens, spent most of the day before exploring areas within 100 meters of Jaffa Gate with another 20 guides, riveted by and enthralled with the never ending archaeological discoveries in this hugely historical section of our capital and discussing the developing theories of who built what when and why.
In the past weeks, there have been stabbings, shootings and stonings all over the country. Jihadi terrorists and their supporters have sought to send their message of ‘Islam or die’ by celebrating the injuries and deaths of soldiers and policemen, old religious men, young mothers, 13 year old boys on bikes, two year olds and even a retired educator who was a peace activist and coexistence advocate.
And yet, the streets are teeming with tour guides and tourists who want to learn from us. We are a symbol of Israel; We represent every sector and religion of our society. It’s a hard and long road to earn and keep that Ministry of Tourism license. Some of us lean left, others right but most don’t generally talk politics with our clients unless they ask. We dedicate our lives to sharing our experiences and (ridiculously vast, do you know how much history happened in this sliver of land?!) knowledge, excitement and pride in our country.
We expose Israel to those who come from every country, nationality and religion and they in turn, take a piece of us home, in their suitcases and their souls.
Personally, being a tour guide is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I haven’t exactly sat around. To be able to connect visitors and locals with our/their heritage, learn about seminal events where they occurred, see the Bible en situ (on site) and discuss the inventiveness and creativity of the people in the modern State – honestly, it doesn’t get any better. And the food we produce here- don’t get me started. It’s worth the trip just to taste the tomatoes.
So yes, today the odds caught up with us, the tour guides, and one of my own was attacked. One of this league of passionate, dedicated professionals that act as Ambassadors and educators to people from all over the world, letting you glimpse the wonder and deep meaning we see in this place every day.
I won’t stop guiding and I’m positive that my colleagues won’t either, as we responsibly travel around the country. We are called in Hebrew (you know, that ancient language that here you use to order a pizza) ‘Moreh Derech’- literally Teachers on the Road, and Israel is our classroom. This is still a much safer place than most others on the globe, so come on by.
Say ‘no” to Jihad intimidation with your feet, your heart and your tummy. You won’t regret it.