“It became the highlight of their trip,” Tarlow says. This tour guide and other clients began asking Tarlow to develop more scavenger hunts around Jerusalem. “It just overtook everything else and became my full-time job,” says Tarlow, who soon founded and runs Israel ScaVentures, a company offering 20 different guided scavenger hunts around Jerusalem and several other locations in Israel. The tours are suitable for all ages and for people visiting the city for the first time or the fiftieth time, she says. Her original Nachlaot route still remains extremely popular. Sending visitors through Nachlaot in search of things like a synagogue door intricately carved with the symbols of the twelve biblical tribes of Israel, the tour really brings the city and its history alive, she says. Not only do participants discover a little-known architectural gem when they find this door of the Hesed V’Rachamim synagogue, but it also provides a way to talk about the story of the founding of Nachlaot as a tightly-knit, yet diverse Jewish community.
“Like all the tours, it tells a story,” she says. “It’s also incredible fun, meaningful and inspiring.”
In order to make these experiences more accessible to more people, Tarlow has recently published “Jerusalem The Experiential Guidebook,” an interactive book taking visitors through five different scavenger hunt routes. Filled with photos, background reading, maps and step-by-step directions, the tours in the book send visitors on different missions, searching for either little-known objects or buildings, or uncovering the backstory of more famous sites. There are also empty pages for users to add their own photos and thoughts, turning the book into a souvenir. At one point along the book’s Old City route, participants are sent in search of a verse from the Book of Zechariah etched into a stone wall. They are then instructed to take a picture of the words, which read that one day Jerusalem will be rebuilt and “and the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in the streets.” Not only do many visitors become emotional upon finding these words, and then looking around and seeing local children playing in the streets, but they also feel part of something bigger, Tarlow says. “They feel like they themselves are the children playing in the streets of Jerusalem, engaging in the city with their families,” she says. “And you don’t have to be religious to be moved by this.” Prices for ScaVentures tours vary, depending on group size and location. “Jerusalem The Experiential Guidebook is available on the ScaVentures website, at the Shorashim gift shop in Jerusalem’s Old City, and at the Smart Tour office in Jerusalem’s First Station.