Sunday, January 2, 2011

Alpha Trips

Unlike Jacob, the Israeli tour guide in the Simpsons' episode about Israel, licensed Israeli tour guides are highly professional. They study for almost 2 years and have to renew their license yearly after more compulsory vocational training. There is a lot of ground to cover, after all this country is packed with history, archeology, religion and culture.

Before 'real' university studies toward his ultimate goal of becoming an ambassador, Dan is studying to be a tour guide and enjoying every second. Since he is approaching a stage when he can get a temporary license, I advised him to practice on a group of friends, taking them on trips for gaining experience, and publicize these beta trips on Facebook. After several reminders and months, he finally decided to take my advice.(Look up the FB group he built).

Before each such trip, he organizes an alpha trip for a limited number of friends to rehearse the beta trip. I had the pleasure of joining several alpha trips and enjoyed immensely. The last one was in the City of David, in Jerusalem. The shape of the ancient Jebusite city reminded me of Manhattan, with the Kidron as the East River and the Central Valley as the Hudson. Although the landscape is different now than in Biblical times as valleys have filled up with remnants of past civilizations, The Valley street  (rechov ha-guy) in the Old City follows the trail of the ancient Central Valley. The 500m waterway we walked through is a 2700-year old engineering masterpiece, with water flowing through it today as it did then. In general, the site consists of 17 discreet excavations, with important archeological findings buried under private houses and gardens. Passing from site to site, visitors actually touch the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During his tours, Dan loves reading from the Bible and then pointing to the place where the Biblical story happened, enlivening it. His vivid explanations transform, in my [poor] imagination, any pile of rocks into the lively places they once were. And of course, I'm not biased.

Lately, a journalist approached him for an interview about his trips for the national GLBT website. 'Don't forget to tell him the trips were my idea', I remind him before the interview.  'Were they? I don't remember'.

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