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An Occupation, a Profession, and a Mission

A course for tour guides at Lander College

 “Derech Eretz,” a Torah school of tourism that operates within the framework of the department for foreign studies of Lander College in Jerusalem, has been running courses for tour guides since 5755/1995. The school conforms to the criteria set by the Tourism Ministry, and its curriculum includes all of the required material for passing the Ministry’s examinations for certification as an authorized tour guide.

Over the past two years, similar courses have opened at Lander College for English speakers and the school is about to begin a degree course in Land of Israel studies. In addition, the school is operating courses for tour guides for the education system, some of which are run in conjunction with the Yad Ben Tzvi Institute and others of which are independent.

The school also has some new projects that are about to be put into action. During the winter semester, for example, an exciting series of lectures and tours run in conjunction with Beit Harav will take place. These lectures will be given on several subjects, such as the yeshiva’s most distinguished students, the son of Rav Tzvi Yehudah Hacohen Kook, Yeshivat Mercaz Harav, and the Chief Rabbinate, its relationship with non-Jews, its opponents, and Rav Kook’s image as a public leader. The trips will focus on Rav Kook’s visit to Jaffa and his journey through the communities of the north.

Another relevant course for tour guides will focus on Jerusalem. This program is being prepared for certified tour guides who want to specialize in this particular field.

Aharon Horowitz, a resident of Efrat, principal of the Tourism School in David’s City, is the initiator and founder of the Derech Eretz school at Lander College. Mr. Horowitz is known as a seasoned, experienced tour guide who has spent many years increasing his knowledge of Jerusalem and of David’s City in Biblical times. In an interview, we asked him to present the main characteristics necessary for becoming a tour guide in Israel and the chances of finding employment once the course has been completed.

Please describe the qualities and abilities that a potential candidate needs to become a tour guide.

It is important to emphasize that we are not talking about an ordinary profession. It is a profession that has a real aura of a mission, and this is what motivates us as tour guides to continue teaching about the land of Israel, the love of the land, and its ongoing discoveries.

What does a person need to become a successful tour guide?

First of all, he should be a real storyteller, and if we go a step further and he also has theatrical talents that’s even better. Of course, a tour guide needs to like other people and enjoy their company. It should be his nature to enjoy communicating and to love leading others, to explain and to contribute. The most important trait here is giving to others.

He must possess a broad knowledge of every field connected with familiarity with the land; however, here we are talking about the material that he will learn on the course. He should be able to assess and decide which aspects of this material are the most relevant to the group of people that he is working with and what would interest them the most. This kind of commonsense is something that he should already possess.

He must be able to lead because this is what a course in becoming a tour guide would demand from him. Without leadership qualities, he would not be able to guide a group of travelers or tourists along a route that they may look forward to following again the next time.

He must possess various ethics, including honesty, modesty, and fairness, and above all he must have an ardent love of this country – its mountains, valleys, its lakes and rivers, its alleyways and pathways, traditions, legends, culture, residents, achievements, and failures. Only a person who has such a burning love as described above can become a tour guide.

The issue of employment after the course greatly concerns the potential candidate. Is there work afterwards? Does the school help to put graduates in touch with tour operators and find work?

For the past two years, the market has been recovering and the rise in hotel and tourist site bookings has been very dramatic.

Our graduates that are working as tour guides report a heavy demand. On the one hand, requests for tour guides are constantly rising, and on the other hand statistics show that those working in the field are unable to cater sufficiently to this growing demand.

The need for tour guides is clearly growing, and the demand for those who speak foreign languages is higher than usual.

In actual fact, the more exotic and unusual the language is, the greater the need.

If you speak Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, you can assume that you will be extensively in demand.

During the course, we introduce our students to many different elements of the tourist industry, and as a result they become highly sought after on the market.

Many people who are interested in doing a course check out the various schools in terms of quality of teaching and the fees. Why is it worthwhile for a potential student to choose Lander College instead of the other existing options on the market?

In my opinion, the greatest advantage that Derech Eretz at Machon Lander has above its competitors is the school’s ethic. It is very important to us to influence the quality of tour guiding in Israel and to give our graduates a high standard of excellence in their professional training.

It is our priority to equip our graduates with extensive knowledge in all of the relevant fields.

We consider it very important for the participants in the courses to tour all parts of the country, including the Jordan Valley, Judah, and Samaria.

It is also vital for our graduates to be equipped with the tools to deal with any questions regarding the conflicts between religion and science and to relate to other religions and minorities from a Jewish perspective.

It is important to us that they also become familiar with the strong connection between our written origins and the tourist sites and regions. We are careful to carry a bookcase full of Jewish literature in our knapsacks.

For more information, call: 0732-204-230

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