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The "Greaters": the Israelis who show the country to tourists for free - voila! tourism

2023-03-23T22:17:17.365Z


The "greeters" ("welcomers" in Hebrew) are Israelis who guide tourists for free in Tel Aviv. Details here! tourism


Blogger Justine Frankout in Eilat (Photo: Justine Frankout)

At least once a month Anat Yahav, a lawyer from Tel Aviv, frees herself from all her occupations and meets with strangers from abroad, and for hours hangs out with them in her favorite places in the city, between heritage sites and entertainment sites, between restaurants and bars. She tells about herself, about the city, about the Israelis and at the end of the meeting she even gives them a list of recommendations for the continuation of their trip. She has been doing all this good as a full volunteer for 11 years. In fact, ever since "Tel Aviv Greater", a volunteer program that connects tourists and locals who want to share their passion for the city, was established in Israel.



The program is part of the international Greeters ("Welcomers" in Hebrew translation) association, which today unites more than 140 cities all over the world. Lila Arad, the founder and director of the program in Tel Aviv, says that the idea to establish the program arose after a tour she conducted with Greeters in New York before 12 years. "We reached corners that we would never have reached on a guided tour, and I really liked it," Lila says,who then worked in the high-tech industry.



Shortly after she returned, she established the program in Israel.

She did the first tours herself and slowly started recruiting volunteers.

"In the beginning I recruited neighbors and friends, and over time it expanded. Today we already have 60 volunteers from the age of 18 to 80 when they all have one thing in common - the love for the city of Tel Aviv and the desire to share this love with tourists."

In Israel, the program exists only in Tel Aviv.

Attempts made to develop it also in Haifa and Jerusalem have not gone well to date.



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already on the first day in Israel something happened to me that left me speechless"

Has been doing this voluntarily for 11 years.

Geriatrician Anat Yahav (center) and tourism in Tel Aviv (photo: surfers' photos, Anat Yahav)

Anat: "The idea is to create a human encounter" (Photo: Surfer Photos, Anat Yahav)

Geriatrician Tzvia Ohion with a visitor from Italy (photo: surfers' photos, courtesy of the photographer)

The tourist who wanted to learn how to make hummus

Lila: "The goal is to host people from abroad on walking tours, show my Tel Aviv, corners I know, life in the city, where I like to be, spend time, bring all kinds of stories"

Lila emphasizes that this tour does not come in place of an organized tour.

"We are not professionals and do not pretend to be professionals. The goal is to host people from abroad on walking tours, to show my Tel Aviv, corners I know, life in the city, where I like to be, hang out, bring all kinds of stories, anecdotes.

From our very life in the city we have a lot of stories to tell."



And there are many ways to do the tour. "The idea is to create a human encounter, but I am always attentive to what people want," says Anat. "Some people ask to join the tour with Greeter for fun, and there are Those who are very curious to hear a little about the city's past, there are students and there are retirees - there is a wide variety of people who come and therefore also a wide variety of interests.

In their application form, they indicate what they are looking for."



For example, Lila says that her husband, who is also a Greeter, recently toured with a tourist from Germany who really wanted to learn how to make hummus.

"My husband took him to the hummus and the supermarket, bought the groceries with him and explained to him exactly how to prepare them."

Geriatrician Corinne Ben-Shashon on a tour of Jaffa with tourists from France (photo: surfers' photos, courtesy of the photographer)

The elderly couple Shulamit and Nahum Raz, with visitors from Australia (photo: surfers' photos, courtesy of the photographer)

"They always tell me it's not clean"

Ronan: "They are always in the market because of the high prices here. They don't understand how it can be"

In her tours, Anat also likes to present the historical story of the city and of Israel, so she usually starts with them in the Rothschild area, "where the Tel Aviv story begins".

Roy Borer, 32 years old, also a lawyer, usually prefers to walk with people close to his age in the small streets he likes in the heart of Tel Aviv and shows them his favorite restaurants and bars.

Ronan Mansuri, 50 years old, who is involved in the development of medicines, also likes to tell his guests about the history of the city, and sometimes takes them as far as Jaffa to show them the mosques, churches and synagogues and illustrate to them the complexity of life in the country.



"I am always amazed by the high level of people who come for the tours," says Anat.

"Once a family came to me from Germany. The father was dressed in tailored clothes, very inappropriate for August at noon. During the conversation it turned out that he was a member of parliament. When I asked in which party, he answered that he was in Angela Merkel's party. It soon turned out that he was Germany's Minister of Health. I was very flattered when he said He was in Israel several times on diplomatic visits, but the meeting with me still gave him added value."



"It moves me that people from places like Manhattan, Paris, Copenhagen, are enthusiastic about Tel Aviv. They really like the vibe here," says Anat, "but they always tell me it's not clean. Even in places that seem completely clean to me, they always see dirt."



"Tel Aviv seems to them a cosmopolitan place. They like the openness, the versatility, the culture, the art, the food," says Ronan.

"They even applaud the activities that the municipality organizes, such as the open festivals. But they are always shocked by the high prices here. They don't understand how it can be."

"There are students and there are retirees - a wide variety of people who come."

Anat (on the left) and tourists (photo: surfers' photos, Anat Yahav)

Greeter Steve Allen with the Jedekin family from the USA on a bike tour in Yarkon (photo: surfers' photos, courtesy of the people photographed)

The Greeter Ronen Mansuri with visitors from Sweden (photo: Surfers' photos, courtesy of those photographed)

The tourist who taught the elderly woman about Tel Aviv

This service of the Gretter is done, as mentioned, completely voluntarily and Laila even emphasizes that the Gretters do not even receive tips.

"I don't have a salary. Everything is done for fun and volunteering. The only thing we still agree to accept is donations for the maintenance of the site. During the corona virus, no tourists came for more than two years and we thought that was the end. Even the money for the maintenance of the site ran out, but now we are back to normal."



Anat says that she keeps in touch with many of the guests who accompanied her, but the encounter she will never forget is with a guest who actually taught her something about Tel Aviv.

"This was the first tourist who came to me on a tour, 11 years ago. He was a very colorful man - a court judge who writes musicals for Off Broadway, and himself a Greeter in Manhattan. As we turned around, he told me that he had come to the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. To his great surprise, I had no idea In fact, there is a pride parade in Tel Aviv. He explained to me about the event and how much it is regarded in the world, and so it turned out that there is something so fundamental in the Tel Aviv scene - I even learned from a tourist from a protest."



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Source: walla

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