Minneapolis native Baruch Frank knows everything there is to know about taking the perfect trip to Israel
By MAX JOHNSON
Traveling in Israel with a knowledgeable guide is an essential part of any Holy Land trip — there’s too much history and politics to depend solely on a guidebook. One can only hope to find a guide who will make the trip halfway around the world both educational and fun. And that’s where Baruch Frank comes in.
Born in Golden Valley to Dr. Mason and Raleigh Frank, he madeÂ aliya (moved to Israel) with his family when he was eight years old. The Franks immediately settled in the Ein Harod kibbutz, where Dr. Frank continued to practice dentistry. Frank left the kibbutz when he was 27 to study mechanical engineering, a profession he later took up in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Frank served 19 years in the IDF, part of which he spent in Israeli military intelligence researching weapon designs of enemy nations. All of this gives Frank a unique perspective on Israel’s military endeavors.
Eventually, Frank left the IDF for a new profession: Israeli tour guide with his own company, Touring with Baruch.
“It was better to retire at the age of 43 and not wait until I’m 50, 55, when I’ll never be able to find another job,” Frank said in an interview with the AJW. “I wanted to do something that [wasn’t] in an office all day. I wanted to be outdoors, I wanted a flexible job, I love the country and nature, and I thought I would be good at guiding not only tourists but Israelis as well.”
Frank leads all kinds of tours — from families and couples to Bar Mitzva groups, and even corporate tours for companies such as Minneapolis-based Medtronic.
He calls his tours “tailor-made,” as he bases them entirely on the ages, interests and physical abilities of the tourists. He’ll do whatever it takes to make everyone happy, especially his younger tourists.
“If the kids enjoy it, the parents will enjoy it. And if the kids are bored, the parents will suffer. So to tour with a family, you have to plan according to the kids,” Frank said. “The kids need to learn and see things, but also experience the fun attractions like jeep or camel rides. For adults, meeting with people here in Israel, meeting with minorities, seeing the life of minorities, understanding the politics of Israel, and understanding the Palestinian situation are all important things for visitors to experience.”
Frank tries to make trips to Israel highly educational and informative.
“I look at myself as an educator more than anything else. Usually when people come here, their point of view is through what they saw on CNN or read in the newspaper. And it can be through Thomas Friedman’s eyes or someone else, but it never covers the full picture,” Frank said. “When you come to Israel, you get to see it… When you’re reading in the newspaper that they are shooting from here to there, you don’t relate to the distances. When you’re standing in the city of Sderot and looking right beyond the last houses and you see that that’s already Gaza and you understand the proximity — you get a better feeling about what Israel is.”
Last summer, I traveled with my parents, younger brother (then 14) and another family of four with two kids, ages 11 and seven, on a two-week trip in Israel with Frank. We traveled extensively throughout the country from the northernmost tip of the Golan Heights to Eilat and everything in between.
Frank made the trip both fun and educational for everyone, mixing lectures about Israeli history with beautiful sights like Caesarea and Masada. Frank was able to answer all of our questions with rich detail and historical perspective. Our trip would not have been as rewarding and truly life-changing without him.
“One of the reasons I became a tour guide is because I know that at the end of a tour, my tourists have a better feeling of Israel and they saw Israel through my eyes and not through the CNN eyes,” he said.
Frank says the best time to travel to Israel is during the springtime, with April being the ideal month to visit. He recommends that first-time travelers plan on spending at least 10 days in Israel to have a complete tour of the country.
To learn more about Frank’s private tours in Israel, visit his Web site at: www.BaruchFrank.com or e-mail him at: touring@BaruchFrank.com.
Max Johnson is an editorial intern at the American Jewish World.
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