Betsalel Steinhart
Betsalel Steinhart
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Reach out, please, to your local tour guide

I’ve lost count of the many skilled educators who are working menial jobs to feed their families, who are having trouble coping, who are suffering from despair
(courtesy)
(courtesy)

“How the mighty have fallen!”

The seemingly never-ending news for the tourism industry recently can be summed up by the observation that the Israeli government is casually toying with the idea of practically discarding tourism, for now.

As if it has been anything but bottom of the agenda for these past two historically difficult years.

Like so many others, I have devoted my professional life, not to mention my personal life, to educational tourism. I am a tour guide, an educator, and an organizer of tours for Ramah Israel, and I believe in what I do, totally. I was born to do this, and I only feel truly fulfilled when I am in my element, passionately guiding.

One of my children asked me if I would have changed my profession had I known the effects of COVID, and the fact that I hesitated and considered before answering that no, I would still have chosen this path, speaks volumes about where we are now. Of course, I wouldn’t change any of my life’s decisions. I know I am doing important — critical — work, the values of which I completely believe it.

However, who would have predicted that this would be where we would be. The utter unpredictability of the future, the non-linear manner in which the pendulum has been swinging these past two years, is devastating, soul-destroying for so many of us. I am extremely fortunate that I still have a job, part of a tiny percentage of the industry still gainfully employed. Thanks to the fortitude, vision, and resilience of Ramah Israel and the National Ramah Commission, I am able to say thank you to G-d in my daily prayers that I am still getting a monthly salary doing what I love.

Yet, the vast majority of my fellow guides and travel agents, not to mention the countless others in the hotel, transport, air, and entertainment industries, have been hit so, so hard over these years. I’ve lost count of the number of excellent educators and guides who are doing basic, menial jobs just to make ends meet, doing literally anything they can just to keep food on the table in a dignified manner. So many stories of depression, of suicidal thoughts and attempts, of life savings gone, of broken families, of an inability to cope, of despair, and lack of any motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Every story I hear gut-punches me afresh, and it is incomprehensibly, unfathomably sad.

However.  I didn’t write this to tell the government what to do, though I would welcome that opportunity. They wouldn’t listen to me anyway, and that wasn’t my aim in writing this.

Yes, I will be at the demonstration today, Monday, December 13, at the airport at 11, along with thousands of others, asking just to be allowed to do what we do. But I am not asking you to be there, though I would welcome that too.

What I am asking is something you can do. I am asking for you to show us that you care, that you sympathize, that you want to listen, that you are with us now as the rest of the country is shakily back on its feet and we are still on our knees.

Reach out to someone you know in the tourism industry, formerly the pride of the country, who has been hit by this, and send them a message of support. Call them, text them, go out for coffee with them.  Lend them your ears, your hearts, your attention; even financial aid, if you can.

Just show support.

Show you care.

We need it.

Thank you.

About the Author
Betsalel Steinhart is a Licensed Tour Guide, and the Director of the Ramah Israel Institute for Ramah Israel. He lives in Bet Shemesh with his wife and five children.
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