One thing that you learn in the Tour Guide course is where things are. We all dutifully write down exact directions on how to get to those familiar and not-so-familiar sites, where to park the bus, where to find the bathrooms. By studying all these notes, one becomes very good at bringing the people to sites which they may find interesting. We also learn which sites will speak to different groups in order to build itineraries with sites that are appropriate.
We learn how to bring people to sites
But not how to bring sites to people.
When you are interested in bringing sites to people, first you need to know who the participants are from where they are coming – not just in a geographical sense, but also in a more sociological, demographic sense.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of guiding an extended family group, here in Israel celebrating the grandfather’s birthday. There were quite a number of little kids, some teens, some adults. I suggested to them a day which centered around events in I Samuel 4 – the story of Even HaEzer. The first site was Izbet Sartah, an out-of-the-way site that I was pretty sure would be a new destination for both the Israelis and the visitors in the group.
I have guided Izbet Sartah before, but only for groups of adults. Generally, I talk about three themes there – development of domestic architecture and its impact on society, early Hebrew alphabet and the presence of scribal tradition in an early agricultural community, and the story of Even HaEzer. My challenge yesterday was how to convey those same three themes to the under 8 crowd.
First I tackled the issue of the alphabet. I took a ceramic planter from my yard that was already broken and smashed it creating pottery shards. I gave each person a marker, a shard and a copy of the early Hebrew letters which were found in Izbet Sartah in the abecedary from the 13th century B.C.E. and had them write their name in this ancient script. While they were writing, I was able to walk around to the adults and give them a bit more content.
Secondly, the family members put on a play about the story of Izbet Sartah. I brought a script, costumes, props and divided out the parts. They took a few minutes to organize themselves and then put on the play for the few spectators. They even had a camera man!
Lastly, each family tried to find one room of the four-roomed house which was excavated in Izbet Sartah. After each family “staked out” their room, we talked about the function of each room and what it would have looked like 3000 years ago.
Each group I guide has its own unique character. The goal is to try to bring sites, history and context alive so it is accessible to the group you are currently guiding.
Knowing facts and mountains of information is cool; but seeing someone connect with what you are telling them, beats everything.