Israel received quite the treat this Passover (a Jewish holiday where schools and most Israeli businesses close down for 2 weeks and more importantly, the existence of bread is banned). Mom and pops were finally able to take the big flight across the pond to visit their Dani dearest in the holy land for a two-week, cross-country excursion. Oh what a time it was!
The trip was important to me on multiple levels. First and foremost, it was an opportunity to expose my parents to a land that I have come to love as my second home. Because of the many issues surrounding this region, Israel has become a destination that must be experienced to truly understand its wonder and diversity. It’s unfortunate that the news does no justice to the Jewish homeland, and I wanted to silence at least some of the worries and concerns coming from the people closest to me.
In addition, I wanted to become even more familiar with the sites that were once brand new and overwhelming. Experiencing my third time atop Masada and my fourth time standing in front of the Western Wall gave me new perspectives and a special kind of piece of mind. It felt as if these were no longer tourist destinations for me, but instead places of refuge. A reliable location where I felt comfortable and knowledgable.
Finally, I wanted to cast an even wider net of visits to cities and landmarks in Israel. The best part of this was I could accomplish this on my parents dime – I’m working on a very limited budget here! Visiting the ancient Roman ruins of Caeseria and Beit Shean, staying at a beautiful spa hotel in Rosh Pinna and taking a private Jeep ride through the rolling hills of the Golan Heights were just a few of the highlights.
In total, we managed to cover 10 cities across Israel in only 12 days. This cross country accomplishment would not have happened without the help of a trained, experienced professional, our very own private tour guide, Eilon the Great.
My parents and I were apprehensive when planning the trip regarding a private guide. None of us had ever experienced a private tour of anything, let alone an entire country filled with (in my opinion) the most diverse historical, political and religious background in the world. I’m extremely thankful to say that our guide was one of the most colorful, knowledgeable, successful and caring Israelis I have yet to meet during my time here.
This man was a highly decorated colonel in the IDF. At one point in time, he was the fastest man in Israel and competed in multiple 100+ kilometer races around the world. Aside from working at a Dojo in his spare time, he gives private tours, a trade he learned from his father who toured as profession into his 80’s. After a few days spending time with Eilon, I realized that he didn’t just give tours to regular old folk like me and my parents. Seinfeld, Madonna and Justin Beiber (or Beaver as he pronounced it) were just a few of the big name celebs that he guided through the many tourist destinations of Israel. Did I mention he is a master gardener?
But more than his accomplishments and modest name dropping, Eilon was a man who lived and breathed the spirit of Israel with all of its argumentative, generous, comical and grounded concepts. His humor created an easy atmosphere for my parents and I to learn and experience the country. His explanations were thorough and thoughtful, yet succinct and easy to understand. The candor about his amusing family history created a narrative that surprisingly allowed us to relate to the land’s history and conflicts. This man was a man of the people, a mensch, and I couldn’t imagine a better person for my parents to meet and understand.
Aside from his constant jokes about being my father-in-law one day (a very common practice in Israel to set up any single person with one of their family members) and his lovable pushiness when it came to my parents returning to Israel for another vacation, I hope that I will get to meet him again during my last months in Israel.
Thanks to him, and most importantly, my parents went away from the trip saying, “I know why you love it here.” Music to my ears and the true sign of a successful family vacation in Israel.