Press The Buttons For An Audio Tour Of Israel
207 ‘masbiranim’ provide in-depth and detailed information at natural and historic sites nationwide. Here are five of the best.
In 1994, the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin – who had previously asserted that the Golan Heights, conquered during the 1967 Six Day War, would always remain a part of Israel – began talking about a possible withdrawal. Extremely disturbed by the very idea, the Golan Heights Residents Committee decided to find ways of explaining to as many tourists as possible the value of the Golan Heights to Israel.
“We did this by stationing tour guides at critical overlooks,” explains Avi Zeira, who was Committee Head at the time, “but this got really expensive. That’s when we explored the possibility of audio information systems so that at the push of a button every visitor to the Golan would learn about the different sites and their importance.”
The first audio information centers were set up soon afterwards and were crucial to the Golan residents’ effort. Then, when the concern had receded, Zeira decided to try dispersing similar information centers at popular sites all over the country, founding the nation-wide, private Masbiran Company.
Today 207 masbiranim (from the Hebrew word for “explanation”) provide in-depth and detailed information at natural and historic sites nationwide. The vast majority “speak” in both English and Hebrew, and quite a few feature relevant songs. Incredibly, the audio guides are almost always in working condition – truly a miracle in this country. Most of the unusually clear English texts are read by North American born Marla Van Meter.
On a recent trip to the eastern Galilee, we stopped at a number of wildly diverse sites in order to try out their audio guides. Here is just a taste; for more information head for them yourself the next time you visit Israel’s north – and just press the buttons.
Mitzpe (Lookout) Kinarti – just off Highway 90 at Menahamiya. (Wheelchair accessible)
Towering 500 meters above the Jordan Valley, the shaded lookout offers one of this country’s most stupendous views. Two sparkling reservoirs are found on either side of the overlook, and below on the left, Lake Kinneret shimmers in the sun. The Golan Heights and Gilad Mountain Range, divided by the Yarmuk River, loom above the Jordan Valley below.