Did a day tour of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv (I'm here on business) with Erez Strasburg, and I was absolutely blown away. I've traveled all over the world and done lots of touristy things, but this experience was unlike any other. Previous reviews mentioned the personalized aspect of the tour. Erez not only asked me what I was looking to get out of a trip to Jerusalem, but googled me before the tour to find out more about me. I was a bit taken aback at first, but almost immediately disarmed by his enthusiasm and passion. What became clear over the course of the day is that Erez is committed to two things in his guiding: (1) understanding the stories and traditions behind sites, and (2) the human, emotional dimension of traveling.
We started out with a visit to the Scrolls of Fire monument in the Judean Hills, because I had said I wanted to do something a bit off the beaten track, and also because Erez believed it would set the stage for the experience to come. The monument is an incredibly moving sculpture by the French artist Nathan Rapoport, a Holocaust survivor, who narrates Jewish history from the Holocaust through the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six Days War. As I realized during the tour, the point of the visit was to explain the importance of Jerusalem in Jewish history, so that its significance was clearer to me (as a non-Jew). Seeing the Western Wall after seeing Rapaport's depiction of paratroopers crying at the Western Wall during the 1967 War was much more powerful.
In Jerusalem itself we did a mix of Christian and Jewish holy sites, as well as visits with a couple of Erez's friends, including Kevork Kahvedjian, the owner of a photography shop, with an incredible story and technically and emotionally brilliant photographs for sale. The emphasis was always on understanding the deeper meaning and significance, not of the sites themselves, but of the way people relate to the sites. Why is it that people travel thousands of miles to pray at the Western Wall or touch the stone upon which Jesus's body was supposedly buried? That was the theme of the tour. Again, I've never done anything quite like this. It was a far cry from the dry recitation of facts about dates and names, and it certainly wasn't a rushed experience where all the sites pass in a blur. It really was about making it an experience that was meaningful to me.
It probably goes without saying that Erez has deep knowledge, but he is also good at communicating information, using books, maps, and even a somewhat cheesy (but effective) overview of the history of Jerusalem using lego blocks. However he is convinced -- and I agree --that information without emotional impact will soon be forgotten. That's why it is so important to seek the human dimension in a tourism experience.
If I had more time I'd travel all over Israel with Erez. I couldn't recommend his services more highly.