“How the mighty have fallen!”
The seemingly endless news for the tourism industry recently can be summed up by the observation that the Israeli government is casually playing with the idea of practically abandoning tourism, for now.
As if that had been anything but the bottom of the agenda for the past two historically difficult years.
Like so many others, I have devoted my professional life, without forgetting my personal life, to educational tourism. I am a tour guide, educator, and tour operator for Ramah Israel, and I totally believe in what I do. I was born to do this, and I only really feel fulfilled when I’m in my element, passionately leading.
One of my children asked me if I would have changed jobs if I had known the effects of COVID, and the fact that I hesitated and thought before answering that no, I would still have chosen this path, says a lot about where we are now. Of course, I wouldn’t change any of the decisions in my life. I know that I am doing important work – critical – of which I totally believe in the values.
However, who would have predicted that this would be where we would be. The utter unpredictability of the future, the non-linear way in which the pendulum has swung over the past two years, is devastating and destructive to many of us. I am extremely fortunate to still have a job, which is part of a tiny percentage of the industry that still has paid employment. Thanks to the courage, vision and resilience of Ramah Israel and the Ramah National Commission, I am able to say thank you to Gd in my daily prayers as I always receive a monthly salary for doing what I do. love.
Yet the vast majority of my fellow guides and travel agents, not to mention countless others in the hospitality, transportation, air and entertainment industries, have been hit so hard over these years. I have lost count of the number of excellent educators and guides who do basic and menial work just to make ends meet, literally doing all they can just to keep the food on the table in a dignified manner. . So many stories of depression, thoughts and suicide attempts, lost savings, broken families, inability to cope, desperation and lack of motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Every story I hear gives me a new punch, and it’s incomprehensibly, incredibly sad.
However. I did not write this to tell the government what to do, although I would appreciate the opportunity. They didn’t want to listen to me anyway, and that wasn’t my purpose in writing this.
Yes, I will be at the protest today, Monday, December 13, at the airport at 11 a.m. with thousands of others just asking to be allowed to do what we’re doing. But I’m not asking you to be there, although I would appreciate it too.
What I am asking is something you can do. I ask you to show us that you care, that you sympathize, that you want to listen, that you are with us now as the rest of the country is back on its feet and we are still on our knees.
Contact someone you know in the tourism industry, once the pride of the country, who has been touched by this, and send them a message of support. Call them, text them, go out for coffee with them. Lend them your ears, your heart, your attention; even financial aid, if you can.
Just show your support.
Show you care.
We need it.
Betsalel Steinhart is a Licensed Tour Guide and Director of the Ramah Israel Institute for Ramah Israel. He lives in Bet Shemesh with his wife and five children.