It was love at first sight! As a teenager, on a summer trek with his older brother, I was totally taken with the land. The hills & valleys traversed by our ancestors- the springs from which they drank came alive. Soon returning to study in Jerusalem, I spent every spare moment exploring the land. My playing hooky from the Bet Medrash, to wander the alleyways of the Old City, was tolerated by my Rebi, who it seems had foresight in regards to my future. Cherishing the memory of the traditional 9thof AVnight walk with Zev Vilnay, as we circled the ancient walls, I now realize who helped give me the needed inspiration.
It wasn’t long before I began to “show around” visiting friends and relatives from abroad. I can remember their eyes when exiting from the darkness of Hezekiya’s Tunnel into the sunlight of the Medieval Siloam Pool. I led this family on a historical tour amongst the monuments in the Kidron Valley, when on impulse I suggested that we take off our shoes & walk through the water of the tunnel. I asked the Arab boy Mustafa of Silwan to bring us candles and hired him to carry our clothes to the other side- with a reward of some Lira in hand and a promise of more to come. The small group took off their shirts and shoes. I, clad only in my underpants, plunged in to the Gihon Spring water. The water level in the tunnel was at times chest high and most of our candles had extinguished. I thought that it was the thrill and excitement expressed in “my tourist’s” voices, as I calmly guided them through the rich history embellishing them, that saw us to the end. But, as we climbed out of the water to retrieve our clothes from Mustafa they said, “Hughie, it was your passion that was the light leading us through the darkness- NOW get dressed!”
I believe that this passion followed through as I continued to “guide” many types of groups. However, it was my wife Tessa who guided me onto the correct path – “Hughie, how about turning your passion into a profession? Take the Ministry Tour Guide Course and get a license”! That’s what I did, never regretting the decision.
While the Tour Guide Course that I attended was demanding, today’s Ministry Courses are longer, harder, and more comprehensive. At present I direct the National Ministry Tour Guide Course at the Wingate Institute. My students participate in 80 Field Trips throughout the Land of Israel and attend over 580 academic hours of classroom lectures. Since guiding skills are multi-disciplinary many topics are studied- Archaeology, History, Religions, Geology, Flora, Fauna, Architecture, Art and much more. Of course, turning this knowledge into practicality requires studying Guiding Methodology, Group Dynamics, Hasbara, Tourism Industry and more. Participants are required to prepare Field Trip Reports that help them organize and retain the material covered. During the two year long Course each student is given the practical opportunity to perform and display the skills learned in order to perfect them in preparation for the Ministry of Tourism Licensing Exams.
This coming October 2012, we at Wingate are beginning an English Language National Tour Guide Course. The entire Course will be conducted in English with the approval of the Ministry of Tourism. Those who complete the course successfully can stand for the Ministry Licensing Exams in English which allows guiding in the English language without additional exams.
I strongly recommend to all individuals who have a passion for the Land of Israel, and who want to share that passion with others as good will ambassadors, to join us in the National Tour Guide Course at the Wingate X-Cool School of Tourism as their first step in turning that passion into a profession.