Jane Hutcheon


10 Oct

Inside Ben Gurion's Library Books Travel

Jane Hutcheon

One of the highlights of the Sea Stones & Stories tour, as we prepare to leave Tel Aviv, was the home of former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

Most of the Tel Aviv house is now home to Ben Gurion's library.

The founding Prime Minister was, like many leaders, an insomniac.  He collected more than 22,000 books in eleven languages!  Our young guide said he taught himself so many languages because he believed it was important to read a book in the language in which it was written. 

 Other facts about Ben Gurion which I enjoyed, the gnome-like leader practised Feldenkrais and was taught to do a headstand.  Apparently he summoned the media to the beach so they could capture him posing.  The buff gentleman in the background is his bodyguard.

We heard so many glowing things about DBG I asked whether, apart from being a great Prime Minister, he was a good husband and father.

Our young guide admitted that he was not.

A book about Ben Gurion's private life, published this year by historian Tom Segev, poses the question "if the leader isn’t faithful to his wife, maybe he’s not faithful to his voters, either".

I enjoyed the peek into his shrine former home. It made me think about the creation of myths.  They abound in this land.  

Although a myth can still be a great story.


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06 Oct

Israel-Palestinian 2018 Culture List Travel

Jane Hutcheon

So I’m trying to stay awake watching the sun sink over the Mediterranean Sea.    

When I was asked to lead this tour, I chose the title Sea, Stones and Stories because I felt these elements were images I retained from the time I lived in the Middle-East from 2003-5.  I always felt the presence of the sea, whether it was the ocean or the Dead Sea. The sea is also part of the story-telling landscape. Stones, because all over the West Bank, incredible rocks dot the biblical landscape.  And Stories because every person, every issue here tells a story. Sometimes it’s a mythologised story, but there’s always a narrative and I am here in my capacity as a storyteller.

So with Sea, Stones and Stories in mind, here’s the culture list I provided to members of the Renaissance Tours group I'm about to meet.  

I've read most of the books and I’ll be using the content in my presentations. The films and newspaper articles are useful background and context.  I'm so excited to be in the Mid-East. Happy Reading!


  • Jerusalem, the biography - Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • City of Oranges - Adam LaBor
  • Jerusalem (the cookbook) - Yotam Ottolenghi
  • Where the Line is Drawn - Raja Shehadeh (memoir)
  • In Search of Fatima - Ghada Karmi (memoir)
  • To the End of the Land - David Grossman (novel)
  • Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life - Sayed Kashua (personal essays)
  • Kingdom of Olives and Ash - Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman (commentary)
  • American Priestess - Janet Fletcher Geniesse (non-fiction biography)
  • City on a Hilltop - Sara Yael Hirschhorn (commentary)
  • Letters to my Palestinian Neighbour - Yossi Klein Halevi (commentary)


  • Seven Days in Entebbe (2018)
  • Disobedience (2017)
  • Eyes of a Thief (2014)
  • Make Hummus Not War (2012)
  • Palestinian Film Festival (September)

Articles and features:

The Balfour Declaration:

The Kibbutz movement:


American settlers:


The Jewish State:

The controversy of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital explained:

A timeline:

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22 Jan

Tour: Oman & Zanzibar - Departs 22 January 2019 Event Travel

Jane Hutcheon

Event Start: 4 months ago

In this incredible 18 day tour, The Frankincense Route, we'll journey to Oman, ancient land of spice, incense and forts.

Then we'll venture to the lush Island of Zanzibar which has a historical connection to Oman.  The tour dates: 22 January - 8 February 2019).

You can download the full brochue here or contact Renaissance Tours on 1300 727 095.

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07 Oct

Tour: Israel & Palestinian Territories - Departs 7 October 2018 Event Travel

Jane Hutcheon

Event Start: 8 months ago

I'm so excited to be leading this fabulous 13 day tour departing in October this year (Tour dates 7-19 October 2018)

There are still a few places available (as of March) so have a look at the itinerary and contact Renaissance Tours if you are interested on 1300 727 095.

You can also download the full brochure here.

(photograph by Craig Berkman)







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08 Feb

Five Things I Discovered About Oman Travel

Jane Hutcheon

1)  It's exotic:

When I was a TV correspondent, I'd have to start working in a new country or city from the moment my feet touched the ground.  So finding the exotic wasn't a high priority.  I had no trouble in Oman. 

Here's how I'd describe Oman: fragrant, quietly industrious, open-minded, mysterious, warm, intoxicating. 

Frankincense is the nobbly resin from the Boswellia Sacra tree found in Southern Oman.  It oozes from gashes made to the bark.  These days, it’s primary use is as incense and so little wonder as I travelled throughout Oman, many hotels and restaurants had the aroma of a high church: that was frankincense.

My favourite archeological site was the 'beehive tombs' above the village of Al Ayn, near Bat.  The stone tombs were used over and over again.  You can find the remains of hundreds of them dotted on hilltops.  Not a single souvenir-seller or another tourist was in sight.

2) You should love dates.

Dates have been grown for thousands of years and you don’t have to travel far in this beautiful country to come across an oasis town filled with date palms.  A single tree can produce nearly 300 kgs of dates and there are thousands of varieties.  I snacked on dates whenever they were offered (usually several times a day) and didn’t touch the Lindt chocolate I brought with me :) I was told by our Omani guide that as long as I consumed an odd number of dates (1,3 or 5. I didn't get beyond 5) it would be considered perfectly healthy.  I didn’t argue.  Dates and cardomon-flavoured coffee go particularly well together.

The other thing I learned about dates was that the syrup or nectar produced by storing and pressing these fruit as they dry, creates a fragrant, dark molasses which when boiled can be poured down specially-made chutes erected at the entrance the country’s amazing castles and forts.  The scalding date syrup treatment was reserved for enemy marauders.  If you tried to side-step the date syrup chute, the next obstacle was a pit of snakes, the entrance of which was concealed by a small carpet.  


4) Wood is precious.

There isn’t a lot of indigenous wood in Arabia.  So the most expensive parts of houses, mosques and forts - the doors and window frames - were imported from Zanzibar and India.  I fell in love with these sensational ancient teak or mahogany doors around Oman carved by artisans...








… and then several days later (in Zanzibar) came across local village workshops like this one where ornate doors have been crafted for centuries.

I was also captivated by the charm and simplicity of these wooden Koran stands which I saw throughout Oman.  Eventually I found a simple one in the souq in Doha which fitted in my hand-luggage.

5) Ibadi Islam:

Oman is the only country in the world where a majority of the population are Ibadi muslims.  Of 2.25 million Omanis, around half are Ibadis with Sunnis coming a close second.  This is a 'moderate conservative’ sect of the faith, which originally fled from Basra in modern-day Iraq.  Ibadism was created after one of the early schisms in Islam and became established in Oman in AD 751.  Ibadis believe in religious tolerance and all sects are invited to worship in Muscat’s Grand Mosque.  (My photo is of the state mosque in the city of Nizwa.)

Did I mention how perfect the weather in Oman is in January?  During the day - 22-28 degrees - with a coat and scarf for the chilly desert nights. {Zanzibar has around the same temperature though it's a little muggy) 

Thinking of joining my tour The Frankincense Route - Oman and Zanzibar in January 2019?  Here are the details.  


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