Thursday, September 21, 2006


A Rosh Hashanah Message of Peace and Goodwill

This blog is usually marked by my cynical sense of humour. I like to take a wry, sarcastic approach to my travels with tourists. However in the spirit of Rosh Hashanah I will (temporarily) break with this and try instead an attempt at sincerity and dare-I-say-it

I love what I do. With all the ups and downs, and irritating people and stupid questions I still love it. One may criticise this kind of work as only helping rich, spoilt Americans - but I have no doubt that the Jewish-Israel education I am involved in, changes people’s lives.

This week I sent out a Rosh Hashanah message to all the people I had guided in the last year or so. I spoke of my concerns and sadness after the difficult year we had just faced and also the positive message that I felt we could take forward.

The number of responses I got back was amazing. Many people replied just to say ‘Shana Tova’, but many others wanted to update me on their lives, tell me how much their time in Israel had meant to them and share with me their responses to our recent war. A couple of examples are below.

Our tour of Israel was a significant event in our life. It changed the way we think about Israel and have become a big supporter at this time of war. You made our trip very special

We think so much about you and all the people we met in Israel, especially though the trying times of conflict. This trip meant so much to Mary Dawn and me.

All these messages made me realize that for all my cynicism – What I do matters and I have a great time doing it.

That is all for my Rosh Hashanah blog reflections. Next post sarcastic A will be back.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Books MEME

I am responding to Parrot's MEME with a Israel/tour guide angle – as is expected of me by this point. Loyal readers (all 3 of you) who are interested, should feel free to take this list as suggested reading on Israel list – which is something I am often asked for.

One Book that changed your life
It has to be Exodus I am afraid (Leon Uris version not the God version) – despite the cliché. I read it aged 12 or so and it started my road to living Israel.

One Book you have read more than once
The Yad Ben Zvi 'Jerusalem - A Walk through Time' book. I use this all the time when I guide. Takes the effort out of the preparation but don’t tell anyone.

One Book you would want on a desert island
Yehuda Amichai – Poems of Love and Jerusalem.

One Book that made you laugh
I know it is not strictly Israel related – but ‘Are you Dave Gorman?’ is a laugh-out-loud book. Basically this guy ‘Dave Gorman’ makes a drunken bet with his flatmate that he can find 54 other people called Dave Gorman. He then proceeds to travel around the world to win his bet. (It is part of a whole genre of books I have that I call ‘drunken boy bets books’). My favourite part is when he comes to Israel because someone has sent him a page from the Tel Aviv phone book with five Dave Gormans listed. Sadly when he gets here he discovers one Dave Gorman with five phones!!!. Rak B’Yisrael. I schlepped naches however when he says that Israeli Dave Gorman was his favourite DG.

One Book that made you cry
Someone to Run With (Mishu L’rutz Ito) by David Grossman. A really great book that brings the Jerusalem streets alive. It’s a tale about two teenagers and a dog living in Jerusalem. Part drama, part mystery, part romance. I recommend it unreservedly. The movie has just come out for lazy non-readers.

One Book you wish had been written
My own book that I am planning about Jerusalem. I can’t give you any more details here, as I don’t want anyone to steal my idea.

One Book you wish had never been written
The Source by James Michener. It seems like a great concept but every time I try to read this book, I can never make it past the Crusades.

One Book you are currently reading
Amos Oz – A Tale of Love and Darkness. Riveting and compelling

One Book you’ve been meaning to read
I can’t believe I have never read this book and my credibility as an Israeli tour guide will be seriously damaged if anyone finds out – but I still haven’t read Herzl’s Altneu Land. I wonder if they make a Lett’s (Cliff’s) notes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


One day ahead of disaster

Well my last group returned last week and not a day too soon. I mean that literally. Everywhere we went we seemed to be a day ahead of war.

We visited Kibbutz Erez adjoining Gaza. We watched the smoke from IDF shells passed bulldozers preparing to re-enter Northern Gaza. When the group asked where the border actually was they were surprised to be shown the fence a few dozen feet in front of them. The following day the army entered Northern Gaza and recaptured the former settlements of Alei Sinai, Nissanit and Dugit.

I thought we had passed the dangerous part when we went north. We stayed at Kibbutz Maagan on the shores of the Kinneret. On Wednesday, the group’s final day in Israel we visited Safed and shopped among the galleries in the old Jewish quarter. On Thursday Ketyushas hit Safed killing and injuring residents there. Maagan is now empty of visitors and the hotel is closed.

My next group is due to arrive on Wednesday, but right now we don’t yet know if they will come or not. Everything is on hold and we are waiting for news. With my recent record it might be better if they cancel.

A, (soon to be unemployed if this goes on much longer) tour guide

Sunday, July 09, 2006



Things did improve since my last post. The group is going well and I just spent a very meaningful Shabbat with them. However now I have a different problem.

I have lost my voice.

Pretty much completely lost my voice

I open my mouth and a sort of whispery croak comes out.

It can’t even be called sexy – which is generally the one compensation you get when you lose your voice.

This is something of a problem for a tour guide who depends on…you know …speaking at loud volumes (or indeed at any volume). It would probably be comical if it wasn’t so annoying. I still have another four days of guiding with this group – and then another group arrives shortly after they leave.

Help! What does a tour guide do when they lose their voice?

Suggestions welcome in the comments box.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


DON'T MESS WITH PMS (I would have said PMT but S rhymes better)

There is no doubt in my mind that male tour guides have it easier than female ones. They don't have the bus driver power struggle to contend with. They are not patronised or flirted with by aging tourists. No one criticises them for dressing too casually or not wearing make up (It has happened to me more than once. I kid you not) and most of all...they never have to guide with raging PMT (PMS for my American readers).

Today was one of my worst days guiding ever. Everything that could go wrong did. And to cap it all I was in the midst of hormonally provoked emotional meltdown.

Friday, June 30, 2006


Kenayna HaRa

I just got back from a trip with a national Jewish organisation from the States. Despite the size of the organisation the group was small. Very sweet though. Around half way through a trip, I know things are going well, when the participants start arguing over who I will stay with when I come to visit America.

One of the participants in the group was 90 years old. He was incredible, as he gamely walked around Masada for two hours, rode the jeeps and climbed the innumerable steps of Safed. He wasn't even the slowest person in the group. He told me all about how on his last trip he met a woman and took her back with him to the US. He was looking for a new one this trip. It did get a little embarrassing at Yad LaKashish (Lifeline for the Elderly) when he was older than all the people there.

I hope I have even a fraction of his energy at his age.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Shoa Business

Sorry Blog readers for my neglect over the last couple of months. Parrot insisted that I post before the end of the month so here goes; I am just getting it in before the deadline. (Unlike the Israeli Government for example who still haven't passed the 2006 budget. Does anyone else find that worrying. I know we had elections but I am pretty sure they wouldn't accept that excuse if your term paper was late at University).

This story didn’t happen to me, but was reported by a fellow guide/educator. S was discussing with a group different methods of educating about the holocaust. One of the participants commented to the group. “It is a good thing that the Holocaust happened because now we have so many programs” Sadly they were not being flippant. Jewish educational priorities are really screwed up.

p.s. I just spell checked this entry and the blogger spell checker doesn't recognise the word Blog. Errm?

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