Behind the Scenes at the Newcomer’s Guide of Eretz Yisroel
The sixth edition of the Newcomer’s Guide included a sneak preview of the upcoming Travel Guide. It was a hit; the positivefeedback poured in. (We heard that on Chol Hamo’ed Sukkos, more English speakers patronized the Monkey Park than ever before, and the park attributed this to being included in our trip section.) There was one objection, however, voiced from time to time: “How can you include sites that are open on Shabbos?” Our spontaneous reply was that since “everybody” frequents these places, stringencies in this matter is individual choice. A few months of tedious work passed, and the Travel Guide was nearly ready to print. One day we were calling a certain popular tourist site to find out their opening hours, and the secretary informed us: “On Monday…, Wednesday…., Yom Shabbat…” I was stunned to hear that reply, in so casual a manner: the site was open on Yom Shabbat, as if it were any other day. Suddenly I was jolted into a reality which I had until then failed to comprehend. Modern Israel is so very different than the America we grew up in. In America, there’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., and Saturday. In Eretz Yisroel, there’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., and Yom Shabbat… our very dear and precious Shabbos! And this tourist attraction was knowingly equating the seventh day with the other six!
The issue became more meaningful to us, but we were still blinded by the “but everyone goes…” syndrome. An earnest discussion evolved amongst our staff members, and then another person called in, asking about this same issue. We began to question ourselves: Since when do we run our lives according to decisions made by “everybody”? If it’s wrong, we can’t do it. I promptly called my Rav, and his psak was clear: Trips and tourists sites, which are open on Shabbos, may not be included in the book. I thought, maybe I hadn’t made my situation clear. The question at hand wasn’t if we should produce the book, it was just about done!
The Rav sympathized, but remained steadfast. He was sorry I hadn’t consulted him earlier, but shmiras Shabbos is non-negotiable. The book could not be printed in its present form. The staff was in shock. The tremendous expenses already incurred thus far… the months, weeks, days and nights of work already invested… our commitments to our advertisers… a large and complete tourist guide in its final stages…. Would all this be for naught? The Rav did not feel he could allow any leniency. He suggested that I discuss this with the honorable Ga’avad of Yerushalayim, Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, shlita, in order to receive his ruling. I presented the question, with all that it entailed to the Ga’avad. He was quiet, sympathizing with my predicament. It was encouraging to witness how well he grasped the ramifications of his decision. After some back and forth, he thought some more, and then replied: “Likras Shabbos l’chu v’nelcha, ki hi mekor habracha! Do this for Shabbos, and you will be blessed with bracha. It will be a zchus for you and your family.”
The Newcomer’s Guide is close to the heart of nearly every English-speaker in Eretz Yisroel. It has earned its reputation for being a job done right, and we were intent upon upholding that reputation. So now began countless hours and days, verifying who is and isn’t shomer Shabbos. The number of deletions from the Guide was incredible, yet with each deletion, we were nearing our goal of a book for shomrei Shabbos. Yes, the Travel Guide may have looked incomplete without some basic tourist sites, but it was a book dedicated to our beliefs. When the book was ready, we presented it to the Ga’avad. He was happy to see it. We commented to him that it had began as a large book, and now was so much smaller. He smiled, “Shabbos is even greater…”
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Three days after the delivery of the printed Shomer Shabbos Travel Guides to my house, I received an enormous and unexpected yeshuah that I had been desperately waiting for.
Likras Shabbos l’chu v’nelcha, ki hi mekor habracha
The Shomer Shabbos Israel Travel Guide is now available in Seforim stores throughout the world. It is distributed by Israel Bookshop.