This April, Saxum Visitor Center was thrilled to be able to fulfill one of its longtime goals: to host a course for tour guides as part of the continuing education program of the Ministry of Tourism.
Every year, tour guides have to take a day-long course to update their knowledge and to renew their license. They can choose from many different topics: the political situation in the Middle East, the latest archaeological sites, etc. This year, there was one more course on the list: the “Emmaus Trail”, for those who love to hike, hosted at Saxum Visitor Center.
The day started bright and early, with a lecture by Henri Gourinard of the Polis Institute on the history of Emmaus-Nicopolis. After seeing the multimedia tour of the Visitor Center, the group set out to hike part of the Emmaus Trail from Sha’ar HaGai.
The tour guides came from all over Israel and from many different disciplines; many of them were experts in their own fields. With the flowers and trees on the path in full bloom, the group stopped several times to listen to different experts from the group speak about the region. One guide spoke about the wildlife of the area. Another told the group about some Roman bath ruins located in Emmaus, which are well-preserved, and whose intact walls and dome-covered roof you can still see today. Yet another guide explained about events that took place during the Muslim conquest near these ruins, located near the end of the Emmaus Trail.
The tour guide course was headed by Dr. Yisca Harani, who explained the different traditions of pilgrimage in Judaism and Christianity along the way. Henri Gournard also pointed out various historical sites of interest along the way, including an ancient water spring hidden off the beaten path.
The hike ended in Emmaus-Nicopolis where, in the ruins of the Byzantine basilica, Dr. Harani read the passage of Luke about Emmaus in Hebrew and explained to the guides why the encounter with Jesus and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus is important to Christians.
Saxum was pleased to collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism to offer this course, and hopes to continue hosting courses for tour guides with the Ministry in the future.