See what I mean.
When I was just a year old, the youngest of four, my family moved from the desert of Arizona to the desert of Israel – to Be’er Sheva. I grew up in Meitar, a suburb of Be’er Sheva, surrounded by the beauty of nature. My father was a Conservative rabbi in Phoenix. My mother comes from a family that moved to Chicago from Safed…. So I have deep-rooted connections to both Israel and the US. At home, we would mostly only speak English but my friends were obviously all Israeli. I pride myself on speaking “Hebrish” fluently.
What first inspired me to become a guide? After high school, I attended a volunteer gap-year program where I was a guide up in the Golan for the SPNI, Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel. At just 18 years old, I was guiding families and teens. I was walking through the canyons of the Golan Heights sharing stories of the different wars and about the pioneers who were part of developing the north of the country. This was an enormous and amazing turning point in my life. I bought myself a camera for the first time and on my free days I would go out hiking in nature, enjoying both the dramatic beauty and powerful silence of the Golan. I would also take my camera to the Hula Valley, where as a kid I would go each summer to visit my great-uncle who lived in a kibbutz there. I loved watching the migration of millions of birds flying over Israel, on their way to Europe in the spring and back to Africa in the fall. The incredible thing about birds is that they are not affected by borders, countries, people – they just keep flying. Nothing stops them. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not an easy journey – they travel thousands of kilometres – but it’s amazing to watch them fly over our land and think of their awesome journey.
I have experienced some pretty amazing journeys in my life myself. Following my army service, where I was a commander in the army – in infantry – serving mainly down south by the Gaza strip, I did what many Israelis do and traveled to South America and India. My love for travel is a constant in my life, and my most recent meaningful trips have been to Lapland in Northern Finland, where I met reindeer herders in -30 degrees, and to Nepal, where I climbed up the ridges of the Himalayas with my brother who was turning 50. It was definitely a wow moment. Another incredible experience? Traveling from Russia to Siberia to Mongolia on the trans-Mongolian train, taking in the vastness of the land, which is seventy times bigger than Israel, but with only 3 million people, half of whom are nomads. I have visited so many countries – and each time I return to Israel, I am in awe of how much our tiny country has achieved in just 71 years.
My absolute passion is sharing the inspiration of Israel with others. Two years ago, I made the transition to working as a freelance guide, after having worked as a guide educator and director for Ramah Israel for many years. One of the most amazing things about working with Da’at is that each itinerary I look at, and each trip I guide, the focus is the people of Israel. We are not trying to portray an ideal Israel. Israel is a real country with real people and real challenges, and the best way to learn about this land of inspiration is to meet the people – whether it’s visiting an artist or talking to people in hi-tech in Tel Aviv or at the salad trail in the Negev where you’ll hear about innovation in agriculture.
Creating connections between people plays a central role in my guiding. In the Old City of Jerusalem, we’ll stop and talk to people along the way – Arab Muslims, soldiers, a pilgrim on the way to the Holy Sepulchre – and hear about THEIR Jerusalem. A month ago, I was guiding the Houston Federation, and one of the things I really loved about the experience was the light rail tour where I guided them from Pisgat Ze’ev to Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Along the way, we got off at different stops. We’d talk to people on the train. We met Shlomo who lives in Pisgat Ze’ev and an Ethiopian Jew who lives in Ma’aleh Adumim on his way to the Shuk, and an Arab Israeli who lives in East Jerusalem. If you and your family join me this summer for ten days, for Moments & Memories, you will see exactly what I mean:) There will be moments you will remember forever.