Today is Israel’s Independence Day – this year, both Israel and Lithuania celebrate monumental birthdays – Israel 70 and Lithuania 100. Happy Yom Ha’Atzmaut!
As tour guides specializing in history and culture, we at Jerulita Travel run a number of qualified Jewish heritage tours in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.
We offer several pre-designed European tours in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Belarus. Due to the nature of heritage tourism or “root tours,” though, we often improvise and tailor custom-made itineraries for visitors, groups and individuals, looking to learn more about their origins. Daniel Gurevich, Manager of Jerulita, shares his insight on what makes a great heritage tour, and why the Jewish heritage tours at Jerulita Travel so special.
What advice would you give to people looking to embark on a heritage tour?
Heritage tours can be tricky to organize, as the best tour guides need to have a personal connection to a place, and excellent training in leading uncommon trips. Jerulita Travel’s guides are known for their years of experience and their willingness to share stories and anecdotes with our guests.
What kind of people participate in a heritage tour?
Many clients hear about us from word of mouth, as recommendations to their friends, or from our website. In many cases, we work with charity organizations, Jewish museums, and educational institutions who have gathered an interested group. We also work with Jewish Joint Distribution Committees all over the world, arranging charity missions.
What makes Jerulita an authority on Jewish heritage tours?
We have a strong team of Jewish guides that lead our heritage tours, who are trained for more than ten years in general history, heritage tours, religious tours. We are also one of the few tour guides who can combine multiple countries on one tour without the use of a third-party local representative. Not many tour guides possess insider knowledge from all of these countries—the Baltic, Poland, Belarus. Our tour guides do.
What’s unique about Jerulita’s heritage tours?
Our personal stories and our ability to connect people with their past. Our guides one to share their stories with clients, stories that often resemble those that our clients have grown up hearing from their grandparents. People love to hear from their guide that he has met people from the same small village where their relatives came from, or that he’s traveled to the same city. Stories are a common language that transcends time and distance. We welcome all of our clients to tell us their stories. Our clients are also pleasantly surprised to discover that our guides are so well-versed in many local topics, the arts, architecture, culture.
How does Jerulita connect people with their family’s history?
We have good contacts in historical and central archives, in Lithuania and neighboring countries. We assist people with their research and can translate and decipher the information sent by the archives. You have to possess a certain knowledge to use this information. For example, the archives might give a family’s former address, but with an old name, and you have to invest a lot of time to find this address. So we act as intermediaries, transporting the clients to the town, asking the locals questions. It’s very common that we might knock on a door and ask the locals to verify the number of the house. In less than an hour, we can investigate the matter thoroughly and really show people how their grandparents or great-grandparents used to live.
In rural areas, small villages, or shtetl, haven’t changed much. Locals still use wells for drinking water, and you might see a horse and wagon, or primitive ways of farming. When there are living relatives, we can organize a meeting between the client and the local, where we act as interpreter, as in many cases these elders don’t speak English. These are the truly touching and humbling moments of our work when we are able to participate in these meaningful moments of people’s lives.