Monday, February 25, 2008

Trip from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea - Rabbi David Ebstein's First official Guiding Experience

My first official guiding was this past Thursday. My referral came from one of our classmates, and the clients were a 50 year old mother and her 12 year old son. It just so happens that this woman and I were good friends many years ago at Camp Ramah and she is very friendly with my parents. Her son is a sixth grader at a Solomon Schechter school. In addition, the woman is a cantor at a major Conservative synagogue and her husband is a Conservative rabbi. The family is steeped in yiddishkeit and that came through during the guiding.

I am going to offer a few highlights and tips. As we drove down to the Dead Sea in Jerusalem I spoke about various topics relating to the desert, geomorphology, E1, the route of the patriarch, Nebi Musa, Mitzpe Yericho and Jericho.

1. Our first stop was at the Lido Hotel where I spoke about the receding Dead Sea.

2. Second stop was the PEF marker. Although it is supposed to be between 203-205 kilometer marker, I had trouble finding the kilometer signs. Since I have stopped here before, I was able to spot the marker fairly easily. I pulled over on the opposite side of the road and we got out. We all climbed up the side of the mountain, touched the PEF marker, read the explanation, took pictures and again I spoke about the receding Dead Sea.

I made one brief mention of the PEF and its mission.

The 12 year old had lots of fun scampering about. The mother and I made sure we didn't fall and totally embarrass ourselves!!!

3. Masada-We didn't go to the museum, not enough time. The 12 year old had fun running around the storehouses. The highlight was climbing down to the Northern palace. When we went there as a class an artist was painting frescoes. He had just started and was experimenting. If you recall, he told us that he wasn't sure how long to wait for the plaster to dry, and in his first panel, there are artistic mistakes. He apparently corrected that and in the rest of the panels there are no light spots.

4. We wanted to walk to the cistern on the southern side of the horst but there was no time. While this is not the most exciting location to visit, I have taken young boys there before and they love the mini-hike.

5. The mother and I took the cable car down the mountain and sat down by the juice stand area. The 12 year old basically ran down the snake path and had a great time. He had no trouble finding us.

6. Ein Gedi was a lovely hike up the waterfalls…Nachal David. We made it to the synagogue just before it closed. The adults definitely appreciated that more than the 12 year old.

7. Important note: The day before we left I called the National Parks number to find out about flash flooding and the times of Qumran. They said that Qumran closes at 4pm. That was fine with me as I had to get home to take care of kids (Rena is in the states with her father). But the client wanted to go there. We pulled in and noticed that even though the kupa was closed, people were still walking into the park. I prepared to guide every site we went to and even scripted where we would stop. But I didn't expect to have to guide Qumran. I was certainly prepared enough to do a decent job, but my point is you never know what you'll need to guide. Even when you agree with the client ahead of time what you'll see, there can be surprises. The night before the guiding I had read some material on the Dead Sea sect so I had some up to date information, so I was lucky.

8. Getting paid. My client was very easy on this count. She paid me at the beginning of the day in case she might forget. I am grateful she was so sensitive. If she hadn't been I would have reminded her at the end of the day. I'm interested to hear how you guys handle this issue.

9. As we drove back to Jerusalem the mother asked me for my TaNaCH and began reading stories to her son. The kid wouldn't let her stop. Amazing. Remember, this woman is a cantor and part of her job is to train Bnai Mitzvah students. That means she knows the haftorah portions as well as I know the mishnayot in Pirkei Avot. One of the stories she read was the story of Elijah and prophets of Baal. Her son loved it. Wouldn't you know it…on Shabbat the haftorah was that same prophetic story. I called her after Shabbat and we both laughed at the coincidence. This taught me a lesson. Read parshat haShavua and the haftorah at the beginning of every week. I had a wonderful time, even though it was a very long day. 8:15 until 6:30pm. L'hit, David


Shmuel Browns said...

"Getting paid,... I'm interested to hear how you guys handle this issue."
I've alway gotten paid at the end of the tour or end of our time together. I've always let them know my daily guiding rate beforehand. I usually have been given a little extra in appreciation. I've been asking $175.-$195. per day plus expenses while I am with them eg. meals, taxis, etc. $100. for half-day, up to 4 hours. The last 2 times guiding for half day at Ir David I asked for 350 NIS (because of the weakness of the US $).
What have you been requesting?

Shmuel Browns said...

Some comments:
The museum at Masada is very well done, worth a visit. It's dark and cool (as opposed to up on Masada). They hand out MP3 players w. earphones so it's hard to guide but there are some great artifacts and the dioramas are educational.
I also missed out on the cisterns, it's just too out of the way. I guess it's easier to do if you come from Arad and take the Roman ramp (but then you'd miss the museum, movie and cable ride). I love the model where you can pour water in the wadi and it flows into the cisterns.
Re: cisterns that hold 40,000 cu m of water that can fill from a couple of winter flash floods
When Salah A-Din was besieging the Crusader fortress at Kokhav Yarden/Belvoir for 1 1/2 years, the knights used 800 cu m. of water.