Madeleine Lavine at Caesarea


British-born Jerusalemite tour guide, Madeleine Lavine, has a unique way of introducing tourists to the capital’s Old City and environs – from rooftops, towers and atop the massive ancient walls.

“The only way to really understand the layout of the Old City’s warren of streets and alleyways is from on high,” said Madeleine, who has lived in the City of Gold since making aliya in 1983 and was recently featured in a video by the nonprofit educational foundation ISRAEL21c.

ISRAEL21c articles, tweets and videos are the result of that organization’s ability to identify, research and accurately report on how Israelis create, innovate, improve and add value to the world, and Madeleine’s love of the city and innovative way of sharing that love and her knowledge of its history, people, places and events, fit the bill.

Originally from the northern English city of Leeds, Madeleine has been roofing it around the city’s high-spots with groups of tourists in tow for many years. She has also developed a reputation not only for presenting Jerusalem from top to bottom from above, but also doing so with a liberal sharing of her northern England humor and wit.

“Jerusalem is such an amazing place and watching the world go by from the perspective of the ramparts is wonderful,” said Madeleine. “To physically be above the hustle and bustle, but still be very much part of the sounds, smells and atmosphere is very special.”

A recent “high” on Madeleine’s Jerusalem list is the effect of the long-awaited and much feted light railway. “Watching the light railway gliding along the 16th century Turkish walls is just something else altogether,” she explains.

“The contrast between old and new, east and west, is nowhere more strongly felt than when one enters the Austrian Hospice of the Via Dolorosa, leaving behind the crowds and merchants of the Muslim Quarter trying to attract customers, and entering the serenity of 19th century Europe.

“Eating strudel to the sounds of Mozart is such a contrast and the view from the roof is spectacular. You might just be serenaded by the Muslim call to prayer and the church bells of the Redeemer whilst you are there, making it that much more intriguing.”

Before coming to Israel Madeleine taught at the Jews' Free School in London. Once settled in Jerusalem she took up a post with the American Jewish Committee, but later returned to teaching and spent ten years working at the private Anglican International School in the city.

“I qualified as a tour guide in 1999 and gradually began creating tailor-made tours for an English-speaking client base but because of the drastic drop in tourism in 2001 I needed to find something else as well, and so combined the tour guiding with a public relations role at the Jerusalem International YMCA until the situation improved,” explained Madeleine who is also grateful for the opportunity to have worked in the historical building – and to get to know its towers and rooftops like the back of her hand.

Climbing the steps of the Old City walls and on to rooftops, and especially the daunting stairway up to the top of the YMCA tower, certainly keeps Madeleine physically fit.

“As a child I was a keen athlete and played competitive sports so it’s not such a big deal – butthe big difference is that now everything hurts,” she says with a grin as the northern wit comes naturally with her Leodensian – as someone from Leeds is known – accent.

“I have had the opportunity to meet a wide spectrum of Jerusalem society which has made me sensitive to the cultural diversity of this city.” 

*The ISRAEL21c video spot can be viewed at: where is the reference?

*Madeleine’s blog:

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About the author

Lydia Aisenberg

Lydia Aisenberg is a journalist, informal educator and special study tour guide. Born in 1946, Lydia is originally from South Wales, Britain and came to live in Israel in 1967 and has been a member...

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