In Israel, as anywhere, nicknames are more than just dialect, they offer a hint about the individual, their personality, family, and where they come from. Hebrew offers some doozies, with more than a few Dubis, Shmuliks, Mottis and Mukis running around.
At Da’at, there are two Mukis, known as ‘old’ Muki and ‘new’ Muki, called so not for their age, but their tenure at the company. The original Muki, Muki (Mark) Jankelowitz, has been a licensed tour guide since 1993 after making aliyah from South Africa in 1987, and has been with Da’at for six years. The ‘new’ Muki, Muki Zohar, originally named Shmuel, is a native-born Israeli who was raised on Kibbutz Sa’ad and came to guiding by way of engineering and high-tech, arriving at Da’at in the last year.
How did you get into this business?
MJ: It was a natural progression from youth movement to teaching to guiding. The country is my classroom and guiding allows you to teach on-site, it offers lots of teaching moments that don’t necessarily happen in the classroom. My interest is in groups on a Jewish journey. I’m a Jewish educator whose main tool is guiding but my primary interest is Jewish education.
MZ: As long as I can remember, back on kibbutz, when I wasn’t in school or working in the dairy, I read history books. I love stories, I love the Talmud, Chasidic stories, literature. When I went to college, my father said, do something useful and I did (Muki is an engineer and then founded several startups). While I love innovation, it’s a second best option. I’m more of a teacher type of person, a people person. I like to be in the field, not the office. When everything went wrong [after crash of the banking industry, which affected his startup], I said, maybe this is the time to do what I really want.
How do you portray Judaism and religion in Israel for your clients?
MJ: It’s about living in Jewish space and on Jewish time. It’s not a surprise that Friday is Erev Shabbat and Purim is a holiday. Israel is what it’s like to be part of the majority, where your time and calendar are the next person’s time and calendar. I’m an Israeli by choice, so there are things that I notice here that still excite me, simple things like a mezuzah on a door, the Shabbat shalom greeting from the radio announcer on Shabbat, noticing items in the store that tell you what holiday is coming up. All this isn’t just telling a story, it’s telling our story.
MZ: I’m not a typical Israeli, I like to see the wider picture, and that relates to how I present places and stories. So when we’re on Masada, instead of judging the Israelites as heroes or not, we need to think a little like they did. What were their dilemmas. It touches people, because they can relate to their own issues and bring their personal stories. It reminds them that we are one people, and that’s the most important thing.
What’s a favorite method or moment in guiding that repeats itself?
MJ: When I bring people to the Gutman mosaic in Tel Aviv’s Shalom Tower, and read from a text, it always surprises me how many people connect to the city at that moment. Many of our clients have this longing for Jerusalem, but really they’re Tel Aviv people and they don’t know it. And that’s one of the places that brings that to life, they get that Tel Aviv is more than just another New York. It’s about people hood, and they realize they can be Jewish in so many ways, it’s part of the culture, and they can be part of the national story as opposed to the religious story.
MZ: I’m a text person, I use a lot of text in my guiding. I like to let people read and develop their own thinking. At Masada, we read some Josephus Flavius; at the Kotel, we’ll go through the text of the destruction of the Temple. It’s something I feel comfortable doing with my Talmudic background and love of Talmudic stories. I like to get people to think what it must have felt like then, particularly given how much filtering these stories go through. We try to understand each story, understand what motivated people to relate to the stories in such different ways. I try to get into the psychology and philosophy of the text. Nothing is black and white, rather it’s about the driving forces of the moment.