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

chuckle chuckle!
Spot on!

This is going to be the best blog ever. Please, please, please, do not burn out.
I think I know who inspired 'Dave'!
Right on, A! My official tours of Israel were with an Udi and a Shlomit. Both were good. Neither were as funny as you.
Your outing with your family was hilarious- and SO familiar!
And I loved your tour guide profiles.

I had great fun putting into your categories the tour guides I know. Surely Udi, is the ubiquitous guide of guides, Menachem Marcus, otherwise known as Josephus (or Forrest Gump) because it seems he was everywhere, with everyone that was anyone, at any given time!

To protect the innocent, I won’t say his name – but I thought Dave had to be L.G, who did the tour-guide course before mine.

We also had an “Anna” a.k.a Inge ( a fervently Zionist Dutch Christian lady).

Where do I fit? A bit of Sara, though I haven’t yet got the grandchildren but if I had I would mention them all the time. In the meantime I content myself with ALWAYS getting in the army stories about my youngest son (the one who captured the Karine A): and a bit of Yoni – even in freezing winter there I am in my teva sandals, plucking twigs off bushes to make toothbrushes (OF COURSE I guide occasionally at Neot Kedumim)
And yes, I admit I have a touch of Shlomit - (even though I am not actually religious!) – but I do have the fervour!

How about adding another one to the list? Shimon, the overweight Israeli who qualified in bygone days, speaks with a heavy accent, has a world weary air, always KNOWS that his tourists don’t want to hear too much, still thinks Yoav came up Warren’s Shaft and only ever shows real enthusiasm when his group are in a gift shop.

Keep up the good work!

Pamela L.
Thanks for all the comments. Everyone who thinks they know who inspired Dave is correct. It is LG but most of us immigrant guides have a bit of Dave in us. MM was my model for Udi too - right again Pamela.

Guess for the others are welcome too.
Loved this post, but your blog is great overall. Keep up the good work.
As a newcomer to this blog, (by way of the Purple Parrot) I have a few comments and queries:

1. A - and where do you see yourself within the descriptions? Having no clue who you are, you didn't quite fit the "Dave" category, as you are too witty to be American, and you obviously know a thing or two about the the sites.

2. Actually, that leads into this comment. Where is the category of 20ish female tour guides? Religious...probably have decent Ivirt to boot, loads of enthusiasm, yet aren't ditzy...and know what they're talking about?

3. The overweight Udi sounds like he could double as a tour busdriver, dontchya think?

Thats it. Enjoyed your blog. Linked to it. I'm on my way...
just visited ur blog cuz of jameels parodizing shtick.

LOVED this post! a job well done..
Hi A:

I discovered your site while search for a guide for our upcoming trip to Israel in the end of March. I searched :"guide, haganat hatevah" and was greatly amused by your guide classification system. I was evidently searching for a Yoni. But Yoni, without your wry sense of humour, would be no fun at all.

So do you do private trips?
I'm one of those over enthusiastic North Americans who wanted to make aliyah in my 20's and never did.

By the way, what is your classification system for tourists?

This blog is hilarious.
I just got back from a week long stay in Israel and our guide definitely was the kind you described in Type Six, except that he was a balding but charming palestinian male and flirted with the hot babes in our group.

And yes, his fav line was 'follow me' and apparently he always took us to souvenir shops that according to him 'offered cheap and good deals'.

Good blog, keep it going!
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