My job is to show the tourists our great country, no matter where they are from, or their backround. It seems to me that people choose a specific tour guide for a private tour not only because of the great reviews on Trip Advisor or Facebook groups. More important is their perception of how a particular tour guide will fit their specific needs. I try to understand these needs and desires in emails before the tour. I ask the clients for their “wish list”, as well as some info about themselves. The more they can tell me before the tour, the better I can prepare. Some clients will be very specific. They will tell me all about their family, who will be on the trip and more. They will work with me on developing the itinerary to meet their family needs as much as possible. Then some tell me they want or expect me to educate them and their kids all about Israel. They hope that during the tour I will have such an impact on their family that they will return home with great enthusiasm for Israel and Judaism. They leave it to me to develop the itinerary.
Non-Jewish tourists are also looking for me to answer their religious needs. I have toured with adults who specifically asked to attend Mass during the tour. Some of these tourists know their Bible and New Testament extremely well, while others look to me to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Most tourists, Jews or non-Jews know or remember the basic stories that they learned in Hebrew School, Sunday School, etc, as kids. Now as adults, they want to see where all the stories took place. And it is up to me to explain and teach them all about the Biblical and New Testament stories as we tour. There is never a dull moment while we tour. Whether we are visiting a tour site or viewpoint, taking part in an exciting activity or enjoying some good food and drink, traveling between sites, there is always time for discussions about Israel, our current “situation”, and the Bible.
A few stories.
Recently I toured with a family from the US. 2 adults and 2 young kids. The mother and I planned the itinerary to fit all her expectations. She wanted to be sure that the activities and sites will be age-appropriate for her kids. That was the easy part. What she did not tell me, is that although she is Jewish and their kids go to a Jewish school, her husband is not. I found myself answering many questions, explaining all about Judaism, the rituals and traditions from the first moment on our tour.
On another tour, with a couple for a few days, I was challenged to explain much about Israel and the connection to the USA. This couple was very interested in the political situation in Israel. How Israel relates to the US, to President Trump and more. And of course, they came with their own ideas about this connection. Yet they wanted to know more about the Israeli political scene.
On a recent 1 day Cruise tour, the party of 3 adults from Germany introduced themselves as a Gay couple traveling with a lady friend. Aside from the sites, they were very interested in knowing all about Gay life in Israel. Gay marriage, surrogates, adoption and Israeli law relating to Gay issues. All this while seeing the main Jerusalem sites on a 1-day tour!
Lastly, I recall a tour with a husband, wife and their adult daughter. The husband was a very conservative, religious Christian with right-wing political views. The adult daughter was just the opposite. I spent some good energy keeping the peace between them while keeping the tour on an even keel.
In the end, I truly believe that everyone went home from their tours with a good feeling of having visited Israel. They saw the sites, ate good food, had fun and good times. They learned as much as they could about Israel, Judaism, Christianity, the Bible, the current political scene as well as all about living in Israel.
All this in the short time they toured with me.
That’s what a good tour guide is supposed to do…right?