How To Find A Private Tour Guide in Israel
How to Find a Private Tour Guide in Israel
We are total do-it-yourself travelers but thought we needed to find a private tour guide in Israel; at least for parts for the trip. We just didn’t want to be herded around in a big group. Also we love good food and know that places that accommodate large groups are not the place to get local food or good food. Finally, we wanted to be able to add and subtract stops according to our interests and energy. Here is a great picture example of good food recommendation by our first Travel Guide, Lea.
We rented a vehicle for our trip that was big enough to accommodate our group plus a guide…. with a little crowding. First of all, do you need a guide? In the end, we had 3 different guides and found it to be very helpful. In fact, we would now suggest having more than one guide to get different perspectives. However, we also found it helpful to have an occasional day with no guide to allow us to explore on our own without the pressure of needing to be on the go all day long.
Methods to Find a Private Tour Guide in Israel
Get referrals from friends. One of my friends and colleagues just came back from Israel and she mentioned one of her guides was exceptionally good. Fortunately, she still had the contact information. She ended up being the guide for our first three days. See more details below when we review our guides.
You can contact Israel Tour companies that offer private guides as an option. This could work but our experience trying this was not good. They don’t pay attention to the details of your request AND they all want to give you a package with transportation etc., which hurts independence and pushes the price up.
Scan the forums like TripAdvisor and others and try to read between the lines. See what names come up and sound like your style as people describe them. Then find them with Google searches and email them. Include some details in your inquiry email and see how they respond. If they come back with a used car sales type self-promotion ….. run. Those that seem to listen and give you good responses to your questions are the best candidates.
After you have one guide, if they aren’t doing the whole trip, they may be able to recommend someone for a specific day or location. This worked for us and generated guide number three described below.
One more thing to consider is what you’re most interested in. Some are almost exclusively interested in geo-political topics. All three of our guides were Jewish and were able to provide that perspective. We are Jesus followers and were interested in spiritual connections. We will give examples below how that worked out.
Our Three Guides
Guide Number One: Lea Veerman
Leah was recommended by friend and colleague who thinks a lot like we do. You can see her photo at the top of this post. Lea was born in Holland moved to Israel to work in a kibbutz as a young adult. After getting a degree and some work experience in the US, she returned to Israel. She has been guiding for over 20 years and has a mellow style that adapted to our group. She also has the classic Jewish sarcasm which fits well with our sense of humor. Right away, when we met, we asked about adding a trip to the archeologic nature preserve called Tel Dan. She said, in fact, it was one of her favorite sites and adapted other stops on the fly to accommodate it. There were other adjustments as we went. She was very knowledgeable and listened well and answered all of our questions. One final point is that Leah was the most sensitive to our interest in spiritual connections and allowed time and space for that. Finally, if you want to avoid some driving, she has a large van and will do the driving for extra cost.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guide Number Two: Avi Ben-Hur
We found Avi from comments made on Forums. We were able to find his email with a google search. His answers to our emails were precise and detailed. We met him on our fifth day in Israel for two days of touring in Jerusalem. Avi was almost opposite of Lea. He is originally from New York and has a New York kind of intensity. He is an academic and trains other guides and does many lectures on the Holocaust and other topics. He hit the beach running and really never stopped talking. His knowledge level was higher than Lea’s but his listening and flexibility was nonexistent. He did start by finding out what our perspective was and what we wanted to see, but then off he went. You should know he is much more geopolitical / archaeological in his approach and has no interest in the spiritual side of things and left us no room to have spiritual times. On the other hand, we did learn more in those two days than you can imagine. Heck, more than I can imagine. If you are a history / politics buff, Avi is your guy.
You can reach him at email@example.com.
Guide Number Three: Gadi Ben-Dov
Avi could not go with us for our day travelling from Jerusalem to Qumran, Masada, and En Gedi. We asked both Avi and Lea for suggestions and Avi suggest Amy Ben-Dov and her husband Gadi. We ended up with Gadi. He is an easy going, accommodating person. He is knowledgeable and adaptable. He gave us a very in depth education on the story of Masada and the questionable nature of Josephus, who is the only source of the story. Also, he easily adjusted the day to fit our interest and time restraints. He was even willing to take a bus back to Jerusalem while we continued on to Eilat. We needed another day spent with Gadi to give a detailed assessment, but we really liked him and would not hesitate for a second to hire him again. If you look at the Ben Dov’s website, they have some non-standard tour options that look like a lot of fun. Again, they seem to have a very geo-political bent and not much focus on the spiritual side. Also, Gadi grew up in the Galilee area, so he is a bit of an expert on that region. We made him the featured photo for this post because he was the most photogenic 🙂
You can reach Gadi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is http://bendovisrael.com
So in summary, we felt our trip was greatly enriched by all three of our guides and we are able to highly recommend any or all three. Having more than one guide was definitely a good experience. We might have liked to have a Jesus focused guide, but those are hard to find unless you are willing to take one of the big bus tours. And we felt that our guides gave us a diverse point of view and broadened our horizons. So that his how to find a private tour guide in Israel, so have a great trip and….Shalom!