Erez Speiser isn’t a tour guide or a techie. He’s a mechanical engineer in the marketing division of the multinational Iscar metal-working company in Tefen, northern Israel. But Speiser wants to share his love of the Israeli outdoors with English-speakers, so he started a unique website, Israel by Foot.
“The independent traveler who wants to hike by himself in Israel and does not speak Hebrew has a very hard time obtaining information. For example, it is not possible to buy an Israeli hiking map that is not in Hebrew,” Speiser tells ISRAEL21c.
“For national parks you get a map and brochure and rangers to help you along the way, and there are more tourists in these parks. Outside the parks it’s a different story,” says the 52-year-old hiking and nature enthusiast.
“You can find articles like ISRAEL21c’s ‘Top 10 hikes in the Jerusalem area,’ but if you want to go by yourself and know where to park your car and what color trail to look for, that information is hard to find in English.”
When hiking in other countries, Speiser bumped into many other foreign visitors on the trail.
“In Israel it’s rare to see a tourist walking on a trail. This is something that bothered me, so about a year ago I built a website as an experiment,” he says.
The website is free to use and is packed with information not only on hikes but also on scenic road trips and picnic spots as well recommended tourist sites and hostels, safety guidelines and instructional videos.
This is strictly a one-man labor of love and Speiser doesn’t expect to make a living from Israel by Foot.
“In every itinerary there is an option to buy the map, GPS track files and GPS Google Maps coordinate links for the hike for $5. That helps cover my expenses. In the future I’m thinking of expanding to offer guided hikes if I get enough traffic,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
Speiser says that for as long as he can remember he has been mountain biking, surfing and especially walking throughout Israel. “So I know the landscape very well and I’m passionate about it.”
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