• Anat Harrel

The Tapestry of Israel

The Birth of Something New


Everything was going so well!


My tour guiding business had steadily grown over the past eight years, and so did my income. I bought a small touring car, got the appropriate drivers’ license, and 2020 was looking to be better than ever. And then… March 2020 came along, and with it, THE pandemic.


Tour guides usually have tours booked months in advance, and my tours began to get canceled, one by one. First the ones in April, May, and slowly, slowly the usually super busy summer months of June and July began to vanish into thin air. Then, August. When September groups disappeared, I realized I needed to take some action, do something, because this virus would be around for a long while.


As I looked at what other tour guides were doing, I realized that some colleagues had started to go virtually on zoom, using Google street views and 360 cameras, and GoPros and all kinds of techie gadgets. I was not very comfortable with this new technology and the electronics but intrigued enough to keep my eye out to see what was happening.


And then, out of the blue, a friend reached out from California:


“Anat, would you be able to do a virtual tour of your kibbutz for my congregation?”


And because I have been doing months of personal development and tons of growth mindset, I jumped at the opportunity to take myself out of my comfort zone and try something new.


"YES! Yes, I would". And the rest is history.


Our egalitarian synagogue at Kibbutz Hannaton

Planning, videotaping, creating a virtual tour of my home, Kibbutz Hannaton, was fun and got me thinking about how I could make my mark in the virtual touring world. The participants in my Hannaton virtual tour loved it! They were so excited to meet me over zoom, they were enthralled by my history telling, my guiding them through the walkways of my community, and they had great questions. I realized I was onto something.


And then I got to thinking… if I have to learn a new platform, go way out of my comfort zone, do things I have never done before, then I might as well choose to do exactly what I want to do, be my own self, follow my passions and not necessarily do like others.


You see, my gut was telling me that guiding the tour like the rest of my colleagues was NOT my thing. But something kept moving me forward and it took a few more weeks for the idea to develop and mature in my mind. I was going to do things differently.


But first, a story: When I moved my family from California to Israel ten years ago, we came directly from the airport to a kibbutz in the Lower Galilee. We had chosen our home on a very special kibbutz, but also deliberately headed to live in the Galilee.


Why the Galilee?


Because the Galilee has the most fascinating mixture of peoples: Arab Druze, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Arab Bedouins, Jews of all sorts and Circassians, all citizens of Israel, living together, side by side, and sharing a living unequaled anywhere in the world. In the Galilee we are 50% Arab citizens of Israel and 50% Jewish citizens of Israel, living in cities, towns, villages and kibbutz communities.


Religious Druze women, citizens of Israel

This Tapestry of Israel is one of the things that drew me to the fabulous, beautiful Galilee and with every year I have only fallen more deeply in love with my backyard. And its not only the gorgeous views and beautiful hilly landscape, but what makes the Galilee the fascinating place it is, is the PEOPLE! It's the people from different backgrounds, traditions, religions, languages and history that call the Galilee their home and who choose to accept each other and share their lives.


Is it perfect? Nope. There are issues.


Is it very good and fascinating and enriching and fabulously wonderful?


Yes!


So when time came for me to build my next virtual tour, I knew what I had to do. I would concentrate on the Galilee, I would bring my participants to meet, not necessarily the touristy places and the rocks and ruins (of which there are many, many amazing ones) but to meet the PEOPLE that make this place tick. I would allow the people of the Galilee to tell their own story, to welcome the Zoom participants into their homes and tell them about their lives, their traditions, their culture and how they fit into this diverse Israeli society.


And that is what I have done. And my tours are fabulous! Or so say the participants :-)


The first four tours are a series called the Tapestry of Israel. I built a tour about the Druze, another about the Bedouins of Israel, the third about the largest Christian group in Israel, the Melkites and the fourth is about Arab Muslims and their complicated place in our country.



Arab Muslims: Citizens of Israel

Through interviews with the people, my participants engage with Israel. Through hearing the life stories from the people themselves, my participants learn about the country. Through getting to know the people, I do believe I entice my tourists to decide to come and visit… once the pandemic is over.


Hopefully sooner than later.


We, all of us, citizens of Israel, can’t wait to welcome them back.


P.S. You can attend any one of these Virtual Tours by registering for them on the Virtual Tours page of this website. See you there!