Here are some of Israel's next tour guides learning their craft.
Yesterday was tour guide training day in Jerusalem. Clearly, the students spend more than one day in Jerusalem, but yesterday was definitely one of those days. After my Arabic class, I ran into a horde of them at Station number V on the Via Dolorosa and wanted to listen in, but I had to get where I was going.
I needed to make an appointment for a group at the Garden Tomb, so on my way home, I stopped by and happened to run into another group of student tour guides. Because I overheard the explanation in Hebrew, I stopped for about 10 minutes to listen.
The Garden Tomb's best in-house guide was giving the group the presentation, which was good. I say he is the best, not because he is the most charismatic, but because he does the best job of balancing some of the more faulty arguments against the Holy Sepulchre like the "it's clearly inside the wall" argument.
Now, it must be said that Garden Tomb guides will not ever say, "This is definitely the tomb." That all changed by 1987, and is a downer for many who were there prior to the change and heard, "This is the place our Lord was buried."
Now, the presentation varies between "this could be the place" to "no one knows for sure" to "the place isn't as important as the truth of the resurrection." In spite of the definitive archaeological survey by Gabi Barkay* that firmly dated this tomb to the first temple period, about 700 years older than Jesus' tomb would have been, it is clear to me why the in-house guides can't say, "Based on the type of tomb, this obviously isn't the place." That wouldn't be good for business. And, I don't say that to put down the good folks who work there. Rather, it is to say: as much as protestants/evangelicals say, "the place isn't as important as the truth of the resurrection," there is still at least a small hope in most of them that this might really be the place.
Please don't be mistaken, I like to take groups to the Garden Tomb because it is a good teaching location - in that many of the geographic and cultural elements of the crucifixion are available there. No smells. No bells. No strange clerical garb. It's quiet, beautiful and relaxed, which makes it easy to meditate upon those most important events, Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
Yesterday, I appreciated how the guide tried to walk through this issue without either completely giving up the farm or being dramatically dishonest. (Apparently they have found an archaeologist or two that don't follow Dr. Barkay's findings). Again, I think he is the best technical guide in the place. The only thing that bothered me was one of the guides in training. He was really trying to force the instructor's hand: "Well, which is it? Is this the place or isn't it?"
I can assure you he was the kind of tourist he will come to despise in short order. There always seems to be one in the bunch that has a hobby horse or knows just enough about something to be dangerous and a nuisance. They always try to stir things up and become the center of attention. And the group generally comes to dislike them just like the guide does.
Thankfully, I don't have to worry about him being my guide. :-)
* See Barkay, Gabriel, 1986 The Garden Tomb: Was Jesus Buried Here? Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April):40-56