Blogging the War: Tourism Hit, Not Decimated

by Brian on July 19, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Tuesday, July 17, 2006. The link is here. 


Hotels and beds and
breakfasts across the north of Israel are empty and Macaulay Culkin and
his girlfriend, Mila Kunis, have left Israel, but many tourists,
campers and birthright groups are remaining in Israel despite the war
raging across much of the country.To be sure, if the events of
the last few days turn into a protracted conflict or if the barrage of
missiles on Haifa of the past few days is not controlled, it could
bring about the collapse of the tourism industry in Israel, which had
been looking to a record year in 2006.

“We are experienced
people,” Rafi Farber, vice president of the Israel Hoteliers
Association said, “but if the fighting is not time-limited, it could
bring about a catastrophe.

“As long as the missiles were
falling in places that tourists had never heard of, it was OK,” added
Kurt Kaufman, CEO of Genesis-Kelly Tours.

Not so when Haifa
and Tiberius came into range — let alone the threat that the northern
suburbs of greater Tel Aviv could be hit.

Most Jewish
organizations bringing teenagers and young adults to Israel have
decided to stick it out. Groups such as the Conservative Movement’s
United Synagogue Youth and the Reform Movement’s NIFTY program have
overhauled their itineraries to avoid the north (cities like Sderot and
Ashkelon in the south aren’t generally on the tour agendas), but plan
to go ahead as scheduled with their other tours.

Three of
USY’s “Classic Israel Pilgrimage” tour groups were in the north of the
country when the violence broke out; now they are all in Jerusalem. “At
first, they just canceled certain trips like going to Rosh Hanikra,”
said Stephanie Mazur, a group leader of one of the USY groups. “Now
pretty much the rule is: nowhere north of Tel Aviv.”

The Machach
Ba’aretz program is keeping all of its campers south of Beit Shean,
which is itself just south of Tiberius. Camp director Steve Frankel
said he would follow the advice of the Ministry of Education and that
for now, “there is still plenty to do in Israel and plenty of places to

The “Kayitz b’Kibbutz” camp at Kibbutz Shluchot, also
located near Beit Shean in the northern Jordan Valley, which appeals
primarily to overseas teenage campers, is going strong and has not
cancelled second session, due to start in another week. USY’s NATIV and
OTZMA programs also have not reported any dropouts yet.

program for overseas students that has been directly in the line of
fire is the Livnot U’Lehibanot program in the Old City of Safed. All of
its students have been moved to the group’s Jerusalem campus, along
with much of its faculty. The students “left in a hurry,” a Livnot
spokesperson told us.

Livnot founder Aharon Botzer said in
that the organization’s Safed campus is fine, although “some of the
rockets did come close to us.” The Israel Defense Forces is now using
the Livnot buildings for some of its officers since Hezbollah is
targeting the army’s main base in Safed.

As of Sunday,
birthright was continuing to land, though flights from the former
Soviet Union and New York city reportedly had 25 percent of their
participants back out over the weekend (a birthright flight from
Budapest apparently had only a single cancellation). A birthright
spokesman commented that of course “groups will not go any place where
it is within the range of danger.”

Hebrew University also said
that only one of its 350 international students has decided to return
home as of now. The Jerusalem-based institution will be housing 140
foreign students from the University of Haifa.

organizations are also trying to place displaced northerners. The
Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) sent an email
newsletter to more than 6,000 of its members asking for help to provide
temporary housing for families seeking refuge.

The U.K.-based
United Jewish Israel Appeal, which represents Jews from Great Britain
and Northern Ireland, has been raising money to buy toys for families
in the north and to send children to day camps in communities out of
range of the rockets. UJIA has sister city relationships with several
communities in the north of Israel, including Shlomi, Merom Hagalil and
Ma’aleh Yosef through the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 campaign.

Zion, a bedroom community just west of Jerusalem, has also offered to
host citizens from the north. The city’s local council is working with
the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel to organize day
camps for children from northern cities

Will current events
affect aliyah? Not according to Nefesh b’Nefesh, the organization that
has some seven planeloads of North Americans and French immigrating to
Israel this summer. Nefesh b”Nefesh said there have been no
cancellations, though they did advise immigrants who intended to move
to the north to be housed elsewhere until the situation calms down.

concerts and events have been postponed including the “Vaia Con Dios”
concert in Haifa, and a dance festival in the northern town of Carmiel.
There is also concern that the summer’s biggest rock show featuring
overseas talent, 80s new wave superstars Depeche Mode, set for Aug. 3,
may be cancelled. The show’s promoter, Shuki Weiss, said “There is a
foreboding feeling in our stomachs because you can never know what is
really going to happen. But the whole industry in Israel is hoping for
the best.”

About the only high-profile dropout from Israel due
to the war so far has been former child film star Macauly Culkin who
made an early departure from Israel, where he was vacationing with
girlfriend Mila Kunis who plays Jackie on “That 70s Show.” Is Culkin
still traumatized by having been left “home alone” too many times
during his hit films? Girlfriend Kunis said she wasn’t pleased with the
decision. On the flight back to London, she told a flight attendant
that Culkin was acting like “a drama queen.”


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