On September 3, 2018, one week before the recess for Jewish holidays begins, 58 tour guides gathered in the Saxum Visitor Center for a full-day course on the history and spirituality of the road to Emmaus. Yisca Harani, an expert among Israeli tour guides on the history of Christianity, organized the day’s activities in coordination with Saxum, so that tour guides could also get to know this new tool for learning about the Holy Land them and their groups.
At the beginning, Almudena Romero, director of the Visitor Center, welcomed participants, emphasizing that many donors to Saxum gave to support professional development courses for tour guides, since they are so important in helping pilgrims to understand the Holy Places.
Henri Gourinard, academic director, of Polis Institute then gave a lecture on the theology and geography of the road to Emmaus, providing a overview of the various historical sites thought to be Emmaus.
Next, staff of the Visitor Center led tours of the Visitor Center in English and in Hebrew to introduce the tour guides to its content and facilities.
After a relaxed lunch, Javier Pozas, a freelance lecturer on creativity and innovation, led a lively informative session about Opus Dei, and its role in the Saxum project. The audience listened attentively and interrupted to ask questions throughout.
Finally, Ms. Harani gave a brief explanation of why Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the way to Emmaus is so important to Christians, reading the passage aloud in Hebrew and explaining its historical and theological context. She noted that without Luke, there would be no Emmaus, since he was the only evangelist to record the event!
In the final coffee break, the guides offered suggestions on how to improve various parts of the Visitor Center multimedia tour, coming from their experience with groups of different faiths and backgrounds.
The Saxum Visitor Center hopes that this will only be the first of many courses of professional development for tour guides in the Visitor Center in years to come.