Saturday, December 24, 2005


Top Five Tacky

I have decided to respond to Parrots MEME with a tour guide twist.

I was with a group in the Old City on Friday and I spent some time in the Arab shuk so here is my top five funny, ironic or just plain tacky things you can buy in Jerusalem's Arab shuk. They amused my thereby giving me pleasure so that is my tenuous link. I hope you let me get away with it Parrot.

5. Armenian tile with the immortal phrase 'Shalom Y'all'

4. Visit Palestine poster. On sale in the Arab shuk - a reproduction of the Zionist Yishuv poster from the 1920s. The irony makes you reel.

3. Crown of Thorns

2. At the T-shirt shop where T-shirts with the slogan 'America don't worry...Israel is behind you' and the Israeli army logo hang alongside Ts with pictures of Yasser Arafat and the slogan 'Free Palestine'

1. Scary Jesus hologram where his eyes open and close as you walk past.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


A Treatise on Genus TourGuidus

There are six main types of tour guides roaming around Israel with unsuspecting buses of tourists. Here is a quick guide to identifying them. If you can think of any other types feel free to add. If you are a guide - which type are you?

Type One: UDI
Udi is the ex-army guide. Every story begins with 'When I was in the army with my buddies' or 'It was night and we were tracking a terrorist'. Udi will always pack a weapon, even when the group is already accompanied by an armed guide. Udi knows how to survive a week in the desert on a canteen of water and bugs from under the rocks. In fact he probably has done. And he will tell you all about it. There are actually two Udis. In-shape-Udi who even in his late fifties will storm up a mountain in seconds and look down at you pityingly below. Out-of-shape-Udi however has a large pot belly and can't walk more than ten seconds without wheezing. This doesn't faze him at all as he remembers the glory days with his buddies Arik (Sharon) and Moshe (Dayan).
Favourite Sites: Golan Heights Battle Sites/Ammunition Hill
Most Likely to Say: I remember back in 1973
Favourite guiding book: Biography of Avigdor Kahalani

Type Two: Shlomit
Shlomit is the religious tour guide. She always guides in a long skirt and with her hair covered. She almost certainly got her tour guide license after completing a course in Land of Israel Studies at Bar Ilan or the Hebrew University. Shlomit speaks with a messianic fervor of the biblical heroes of Israel and the modern miracle of the creation of the State.
There is a sub-section of this type of guide. Shelomi - the religious settler guide. He is easily identified by his kippa sruga, sandals, t-shirt from his youth movement shevet or hesder army machzor and of course the ubiquitous gun. This is his uniform on duty and off.
Favourite Sites: Kotel Tunnels, Jewish Quarter/City of David/Gush Etzion
Most Likely to Say: According to the Torah
Favourite guiding book: The Tanach of course

Type Three: Yoni
Yoni is a Kibbutz tour guide. He was born and raised on the Kibbutz. He knows the entire region around the Kibbutz as intimately as a lover knows his beloved. He will probably use this metaphor. Take Yoni into the city and he may get a little lost. He is strictly an outdoor kind of guide. You can recognise Yoni by his clothes. He will generally wear an old worn Haganat HaTeva (National Parks Authority) Tshirt, a white Bedouin style kafir be darkly tanned and have dirt under his fingernails. Stop anywhere for ten seconds and Yoni will be brewing up tea with leaves he found nearby. Yoni especially loves to tell stories of the early pioneers. In fact he secretly wishes he was one.
Favourite Sites: Kinneret Cemetery/Tel Chai/Anywhere within a 10km radius of his Kibbutz.
Favourite guiding book: Poems of Rachel

Type Four: Sara
Sara is probably in her late 50s or early 60s. Guiding is a hobby for her and she works a couple of mornings a week as a volunteer guide at the citadel museum, Israel museum or somewhere similar. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the very specific place she guides but couldn't locate Eilat on a map. She will talk and talk from her mental script oblivious to what is happening around her. She will certainly mention her grandchildren at least once. If your phone rings or you whisper to a friend you can expect a stern glare of reproof.
Favourite Sites: David Citadel Museum
Most Likely to Say: In the next display you will see...
Favourite guiding book: Museum published guide

Type Five: Dave
Dave the over-enthusiastic American guide was born and raised abroad and only made aliyah in his early 20s. Since Dave speaks Hebrew and English with a flawless American accent he can never quite shake the feeling of not being authentic enough. No matter how well he knows the country, or how much he has studied the history he will never really be Israeli. He therefore compensates for his accent, lack of army stories and inability to identify hundreds of types of indigenous plant species by being really enthusiastic. He uses acting, costumes, pictures and props and always speaks in exclamation marks.
Favourite Sites: Masada (lots of costume opportunities)
Most Likely to Say: A long time ago in a galaxy far away
Favourite guiding book: Josephus

Type Six:Anna
Anna was originally European and speaks several languages. You can always spot her by the umbrella that she holds aloft to gather stray tourists and keep them together in the bustle of the Arab shuk. She specialises in Christian tourists. Anna sees through all the people to the stones beyond. Anna is the tour guide from Amichai's poem who says "You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch from the Roman period"
Favourite Sites: Old City of Jerusalem
Most Likely to Say: Follow me
Favourite guiding book: The New Testament

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Salty Subject II

Speaking of the Dead Sea, I heard this story from a fellow guide who was on the trip, so it is not an urban myth. An American birthright group was down at the Dead Sea, and one couple on the trip floated away from the group in order to get more intimate with one another.

For the uninitiated it is not advisable to have sex in water with a salt content 10 times the normal sea level. It is true that this wasn't on the list of specific advice the tour guide gave - like don't get the water in your eyes, don't put your head under the water etc.

The two emerged from the sea in a hurry. The girl was screaming in pain. The medic on the group tried to relieve the pain, but despite lots of splashing of fresh water nothing was working. In this situation there was only one possible solution. Ice lollies. I will leave the rest to your imagination.


Salty Subject

This weekend I traveled down to Eilat. Not, work - just fun this time. But of course I can't turn it off.

My favourite comment from the bus. "Is the Dead Sea salty on the Jordanian side?"

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