A precedent-setting halachic ruling by Hagaon Harav Yehudah Silman states that a G-d-fearing Jew cannot be an officially certified tour guide in Israel.
The question was originally brought to Yad L’Achim by a chareidi man who was taking the Tourism Ministry’s course to become a licensed tour guide. He soon discovered that to receive his certification he would have to learn Christian theology in depth – raising concerns of idol worship.
The man submitted together with his question a batch of papers showing that the course delved into Christian theology in depth. He wanted to know whether it was permissible for him to participate in such classes for the sake of earning a living.
The material, comprising dozens of pages, included basic terminology and concepts in Christian theology; familiarity with churches and Christian “holy” places and their connection to Christian teachings, and more.
Yad L’Achim immediately understood that the course was forbidden, in keeping with the ruling of the Rambam in Hilchos Avoda Zara (2,2), stating: “Many books were authored by idol worshipers that describe what is the main worship and what are its deeds and laws; Hakadosh Baruch Hu commanded us not to read these books at all and not to mull them … and even to look at an image … is forbidden, as it is written, ‘Don’t turn to their idols.’ “
However, in light of the specific request from the chareidi individual, and the fact that he needed to take the course to be able to earn a living, Yad L’Achim turned to a Torah authority for a ruling.
After studying the material, Hagaon Harav Silman stated unequivocally that “these things are terrible and there is no doubt that there is a severe prohibition [against being exposed to them] and that permission cannot be given because of the need to earn a living.”
A Yad L’Achim official stated: “This halachic ruling shows that a Jew cannot be a tour guide in Israel. It isn’t clear why in a Jewish state one who refuses to learn Christianity cannot be a tour guide. The guidelines of the Tourism Ministry are distorted and must be changed.”