Today, I am going to interview Jacob Firsel, the author of Go To Galilee: A Travel Guide For Christian Pilgrims. I will also offer a book giveaway.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jacob in 2008. Jacob was our private tour guide when my husband and I traveled for a week and a half throughout Israel. When we stopped in Israel during a 2012 Mediterranean cruise, we toured with Jacob for 3 days.
After our last trip, I read Jacob’s book. While I am not Christian, I was curious to see how Jacob presented tour options to a Christian audience. I wrote an Amazon review that highlights the key elements of his book.
Q & A
Many of my readers reside in Chicago. They will be interested in knowing that Jacob was raised in that area. Jacob, can you provide a brief overview of your early years in Chicago? For example, where did you live and what did you study in the US?
I lived in Chicago (South Shore) and then in Oak Park, Illinois. I studied Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana and have an MA in Education from Northwestern University.
Why did you choose to relocate to Israel?
I came to study Hebrew here and stayed.
How long did it take for you to adjust to Israeli culture and to become fluent in Hebrew?
A few years. Serving in the Israeli Army makes you Israeli.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced as a new immigrant?
The language and the loneliness. It was culture shock on a huge scale.
When did you decide to become a tour guide?
It seemed to be a really nice way to make a living. I love history and archaeology. I had been a teacher and wanted to be home to help raise my family. When my youngest son went into junior high, I turned to guiding full-time.
I have traveled to numerous countries and have had the pleasure of taking tours with a variety of guides. Some were more proficient than others. Can you briefly describe your training and the certification requirements for an Israeli tour guide?
We have to undergo a rigorous two-year course offered by the Ministry of Tourism. Then, we have oral and written exams. The real test, however, is getting on a bus with 45 pilgrims and making their trip a life-changing experience. Experience is the key thing, as in any profession.
What are the most notable aspects of being an Israeli tour guide?
Well, we are on one hand, ambassadors of the Jewish people and sometimes have to cut through a lot of emotional baggage people bring with them. On the other hand, I think Israel really has a fantastic tourist infrastructure. Lots of great tour guides out there.
Your client list includes Jews, Christians and other religious groups. What prompted you to write a book for a Christian audience?
I guide lots of Christians and there was a need for this book. It also gave me a chance to really learn the subject.
How did you select the places that you would talk about in your book?
That was easy. I just picked up a New Testament and wrote about everyplace Jesus was in the Galilee.
If you publish a second edition, is there anything that you would change?
Yes, but nothing too serious. Price changes, etc.
What sources did you rely upon for your historical facts?
A plethora of sources: Mainly The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, and The Sacred Bridge by Notley and Rainey.
The book includes a wide selection of books and maps. What steps did you take to assure the quality and accuracy of these illustrations?
Got someone really good to do the illustrations. My editor, Steven Landis
How does your guidebook stand out from your competition?
There is no guidebook that focuses on the Galilee for Christians.
How long did it take for you to complete the book?
3 years, plus/minus.
Are you planning to write another book?
Yes. More visual this time. Based on photographs.
If you are interested in purchasing Go To Galilee: A Travel Guide For Christian Pilgrims, I suggest visiting Jacob’s Amazon page. Jacob, is Go to Galilee available anywhere else?
Yes, On my website: www.guideinisrael.com and in bookstores in Israel.
If you are planning a trip to Israel and are looking for a private guide, I recommend that you check out Jacob’s website.
Thank you Jacob for taking time to answer my questions. It was a pleasure to electronically chat with you.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, January 26 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The randomly selected winner will be sent an autographed copy of Go To Galilee: A Travel Guide For Christian Pilgrims.
If you read Jacob’s travel guidebook, I’d love to hear from you.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.