Tag Archives: Guide

Visit Palestine with Shmuel

VisitPalestineWalking through the Arab shuq you might notice graphic posters displayed in a number of shops. Perhaps one of the most striking says VISIT PALESTINE with a graphic of the Haram el-Sharif. Two of the most popular places to visit in Palestine are Bethlehem and Jericho. I am now authorized to guide there so you can now visit Palestine with me.

Interesting thing is that the poster is not contemporary, not by a Palestinian artist or graphic designer and in fact, has nothing to do with “Palestine”, meaning the West Bank and Gaza. The poster is from 1936 when the whole area was Palestine under the British Mandate and the poster was designed by an Austrian Jewish artist living in Tel Aviv.

Moving from Vienna to Berlin to Paris and then Barcelona, Franz Krausz and his wife Anni managed to flee Europe, came to Palestine in 1934 and settled in Tel Aviv. Krausz was a pioneer of art for advertising and designed posters for Israeli companies like Dubek cigarettes and Elite, the chocolate and candy manufacturer. Krausz most dynamic and colorful work was hand-painted gouache, sometimes based on photographic studies shot by his wife. My good  friend and artist, Bob Gottlieb is living in Louisville, KY with my photograph of the “Petrified Trees” in the Large Makhtesh from my calendar and is planning to do a painting of the scene. Anyone else interested in trying their hand at painting from my photographs? For an example of a photograph and painting of the same scene, see my post on Banias stream.

The “Visit Palestine” poster is Krausz’ best-known image, with just those two words in English, no Hebrew or Arabic, done using only six colors. On the left foreground of the poster is a tree in silhouette, perhaps an olive, or oak or carob, framing a view of the Haram el-Sharif and Dome of the Rock, even the Dome of the Chain is shown, with Jerusalem behind – the view of the city is from the Mount of Olives. Although prolific and one of Israel’s most-accomplished graphic designers Krausz made very little money from his frugal clients.

ComeSeeIsraelYou might notice two other graphic posters in the Arab shuq. One, with English and Hebrew, has the words Tourism in Palestine as the caption at the top (in Hebrew, the text is Tourism in the Land of Israel). The main image is a gentleman, dressed in white, with a British explorer hat and high boots pointing at a map of Palestine, ostensibly a guide.

Around the main image are small icon-like drawings of places of interest (certainly a peculiar list of sites for a tour), on the left:

  • Mosque of Omar, ie. Dome of the Rock
  • Herzliah, ie. Herzliah gymnasia (high school in Tel Aviv)
  • Cave of Machpelah
  • the town of Rishon LeZion

on the right:

  • Tower of David
  • Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem
  • Rachel’s Tomb
  • Metulah

The poster is an advertisement for “The Association of Jewish Guides, Properly Trained In All Subjects That Make a Good Guide, Is At Your Service Fixed Rates Apply to the Office” and to encourage the purchase of craft items made in the Holy Land in order to help it’s economy and the artists who lived here.

Come to PalestineThe other poster has Come to Palestine on the bottom. It has the words “Society for the Promotion of Travel in the Holy Land” across the top, with two circles, icons of the Dome of the Rock and Tower of David (like the previous poster). Below is an idyllic painting of a palm tree overlooking Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee with a snow-capped Mount Hermon in the distance, with shepherds sitting on the hillside beside an almond tree with blossoms. The scene is viewed through a horseshoe arch, the arch starts to curve inwards above the level of the capital or impost, a form developed during the early Islamic period.

Under the painting is a quotation from Song of Songs 2:11 For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone…

The whole thing, both Biblical and Zionist themes, is done in a style influenced by the European jugendstil (similar to Art Nouveau) and by traditional Persian and Syrian styles. Both posters were designed by Zev Raban of the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem in the mid 1920’s to promote tourism to Palestine.

Under the influence of Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel Academy, Raban moved to Palestine in 1912 during the wave of immigration known as the Second Aliyah. He joined the faculty of the Bezalel school, and soon took on a central role there as a teacher of repoussé, painting, and sculpture. He also directed the academy’s Graphics Press and the Industrial Art Studio. By 1914, most of the works produced in the school’s workshops were of his design.

For other examples of Raban’s graphic work reproduced on ceramic tiles visit Bialik House in Tel Aviv. At the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Allenby Street, Lederberg House also has some ceramic murals: a Jewish pioneer sowing and harvesting, a shepherd, and Jerusalem with a verse from Jeremiah 31:4, “Again I will rebuild thee and thou shalt be rebuilt.”

What to see in Jerusalem

What to see in Jerusalem and Not Hire a Guide

I’m often asked by people who are planning a trip to Israel what they should do if they have a couple of days to see and experience Jerusalem. Of course, there are many answers, it really depends on what you are interested in. Assuming that this is your first visit, you’ll probably want to start in the Old City so here are my recommendations – note some sites charge an entrance fee.

First, drop by the Tourist Information Center at Jaffa Gate, in the Old City and get a free map and a list of sites to see; say hi to Jennifer, she’ll help by marking sites on the map for you and answering your questions. Then walk around, exploring the 4 Quarters, Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian.

Another possibility is to take the Ramparts Walk starting at Jaffa Gate where you actually walk on the walls built in 1537 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent – looking in gives you a birds-eye view of the Old City, looking out gives you a view of the new city.

In terms of churches, I would visit the Church of the Agony/All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane outside of the city walls, re-enter the Old City at Lions Gate, visit the Church of Santa Anna, a Crusader church with incredible acoustics (try singing Amazing Grace or other liturgical melody). Continue and you will come to Station I of the Via Dolorosa, follow the Via Dolorosa counting 8 stations to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest site to Christianity, where Jesus was crucified and buried and according to Christian tradition rose again, stations IX to XIV are at the Church.

Walk through the Arab shuq and take a right at the Cardo to get to the Jewish Quarter. Visit the Wohl archaeological museum to get a feeling for Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, in the time of Herod and Jesus. If you are interested in more archaeology, then visit the southern wall excavations at the Davidson Center; there is also a movie that describes life at that time.

Visit the Western Wall, the holiest site to Judaism, write your prayer on a paper and tuck it into a crack in the stones of the wall. Try to reserve a Western Wall Tunnel tour in advance, either on their website (if you know some Hebrew) at http://english.thekotel.org/VisitorInfo.asp?id=1 or you can call them at (02) 627-1333 between 8:30-17:00.

It’s worth taking a guided group tour of the City of David – exit the Old City through Dung gate, take a left and then right and the entrance is on your left. If you have “water” shoes and aren’t claustrophobic, you can even walk 45 minutes through Hezekiah’s Tunnel with water up to your knees (you’ll need a flashlight which you can buy at the site or use your cell phone), which is quite an experience.

You might want to walk up onto the Haram el Sharif to see the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site to Islam) close up (the Muslim Waqf won’t allowed you to enter them unfortunately) but if so you’ll have to do it in the morning and it takes between 1/2 and 1 hour to pass through security at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. Make sure you have no religious articles, prayer books or Bibles and no Swiss Army knife, etc. with you – they will be confiscated.

The new Israel Museum is open after extensive renovations and it is now much easier to find your way (for more information check out my blog entry) – the Archaeology wing has been completely redone, the Ethnography section has been expanded and called Jewish Life and the Art gallery includes a new section on Israeli art. The museum includes the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts from Qumran are on display. From the same period, the Holyland model of Jerusalem is now housed on the museum campus. If the weather is cooperative, walk around and enjoy the sculpture garden. If you’re interested in archaeology, you can also visit the Rockefeller museum (on the same admission, there’s even a shuttle bus) which will get you back to the Old City.

For an overview of Jerusalem, there’s a red double-decker bus that takes you for a 2 hour audio tour (explanations in 8 languages) of the whole city:

The Arab shuq/market and the Mahane Yehuda market are great places to get a feel for Jerusalem. There’s the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall, called the Midrahov, and at the bottom Zion Square and the pubs, restaurants and boutique galleries in Nahalat Shiva. There’s live music at the Yellow Submarine in Talpiot.

Explore the German Colony: for a local movie theater from the British Mandate period with restaurant/pub check out the Smadar; for artistic films, check Cinemateque. For music, dance and theater try the Mabada. There are plenty of places to eat in this neighborhood (including my house 8-))

All this without hiring a guide, but to be fair how about reading my post, Why hire a guide?

Finding a guide at the last minute

In Hebrew there’s an expression daka tish’im which means at the last minute. I’ve been able to help people who realized at the last minute that they wanted to see a particular site – the best way to do that is to hire a guide who can arrange everything. One couple hoped they would get to visit Herodium, King Herod’s palace/fortress in the desert but it was the day before they were leaving. They searched on Google and found an article I’d written and contacted me. I picked them up at their hotel, drove them to Herodium and guided them. This is what they had to say:

The tour of Herodium was awe-inspiring, largely because of Shmuel Browns, our guide. He is highly knowledgeable, and comes equipped with graphic documentation that fills the gaps of what one sees. He gave us a taste of the detective work of archaeologists. Further, Shmuel is very professional and a real “mensch”.

A businessman was flying to Zurich, Switzerland in the afternoon, but at the last minute he had the morning available so he contacted me to take him around the Old City before his flight (I ensured that we were back in time to meet his taxi to the airport; alternatively, after the tour I can take you to the airport, I’m a licensed chauffeur). So if you have limited time but want to have the fullest experience while here in Israel (good reasons for hiring a guide) I can guide you for as little as ½ day. The tour will be personalized to your interests and you can book at the last minute. If you’re staying in Jerusalem then phone me at +972 53 280 6537 (also WhatsApp or Telegram) when you wake up and tell me what you’d like to do, then you can go for breakfast. If I’m available, I’ll meet you within the hour to start your tour.

Here is what one traveler who hired me shared on TripAdvisor:

First off, I made the very grave error of only booking a private tour guide for one day. That caused me a lot of stress while on vacation. I did a lot of research prior to my departure and based on the forum discussions I decided that one day of touring with a guide would be enough and decided that I was enough of a ‘seasoned’ traveller to be able to guide my party on my own.

The other reason I was swayed away from hiring a guide was the costs involved. I’ve used private guides in China and Africa and the costs for a private guide were very very inexpensive compared to guides in Israel – I had a hard time justifying the $500. per day.

Boy was I ever wrong and was I ever sorry for having listened to the feedback that you can do Israel on your own with a good guide book. This was not the case for me or my travel companions. We found we really needed the professional assistance of a guide for there is just so much a guide book can teach you. Few sights have good signage telling you where you are and what you are seeing or much historical reference. The cost of a guide definitely reflects what you get, an organized and informative visit to a land filled with a very rich narrative history!

If you decide at the last minute that you really do need a guide whether for one day or a week contact me. You can hire an expert, licensed guide at the last minute and for less than $500. per day.