Retirees to aid tourists in Jerusalem's Old City

Pilot program expected to benefit visitors, seniors' quality of life.

retirees jlem 224 88 (photo credit: Noa Landes)
retirees jlem 224 88
(photo credit: Noa Landes)
The Tourism Ministry initiated a program last week in which retirees volunteer to assist tourists visiting the Old City of Jerusalem. Fifty volunteers, ranging from ages 60 to 85 - all of whom are multilingual and versed in the history of major tourist attractions - will be deployed throughout the Old City, wearing vests emblazoned with the word "volunteer." The first day of the program began with a walk from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall at 3 p.m., followed by a meeting in which the volunteers were briefed on what their duties would include. The project is intended to provide a more secure environment for the tourists, and to offer them an easier and more informative way to tour if they have not hired a tour guide. "This program is so vital for tourists," said Oren Mor, manager of the Tourism Ministry's branch in the Old City. Mor says that tourists who enter the Old City enter an unfamiliar environment, which can be "intense." "We get so many people who continuously return to the office, asking for directions again or more information," said Jennifer Allen, who already volunteers at the Tourism Ministry office. "With these volunteers, tourists won't have to find their way back to the office, but will have [someone] close by who has the same answers as us." "Tourism is one of the foundations of Israel's economy," said David Ben-Naeh, one of the program's senior volunteers. "We need to make sure that we do all we can to improve tourist attractions in Israel and make sure that the tourists feel comfortable and safe." The program is not just about improving the tourists' stay and impression of Israel, but also about bettering the quality of life for the senior citizens. "When seniors work longer and are more active, they live longer," said Dr. Avi Bitzu, director of the Pensioners Affairs Ministry. "This program creates a win-win situation for every one of the participants: the senior volunteers and the tourists."