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Subject: All of Israel is not at war
Author: Sandy Thorn Clark
Date Sent to Zipple: December 18, 2000
TEL AVIV, Israel (Nando, December 14, 2000 12:05 a.m. EST ) - Perhaps CNN
and the rest of the American and British media will deal Israel far more of
a blow than Yasser Arafat.
That's my conclusion after witnessing firsthand the crippling effect the
media are having on tourism in Israel and after hearing Israelis,
especially those involved in the tourism industry, berate and condemn CNN
and the BBC more than Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
CNN's ammunition comes in 20-second sound bites and two-minute video
highlights of the daily skirmishes, bloodshed and killings in the Mideast.
American and British media's contribution: two- to three-minute snippets
leading most international newscasts and almost daily frozen-frame
front-page photos of the sniping and slaughter in the Mideast.
The battle is not fought in the whole of the "Mideast" as it's become known
in headlines. It's not even fought in the whole of "Israel."
Instead, it's fought mostly in the Gaza Strip along Israel's western
border. Sometimes, it's in Ramallah. Sometimes, it's in Bethlehem or Hebron
or Jericho or Nazareth. Sometimes, it's on Temple Mount. And, yes,
sometimes it's even in Jerusalem. Though rock-throwing, name-calling,
rioting, bombing, suicide bombing and killing are generally contained
within small pockets or neighborhoods in Israel, the misleading inference
from dramatic news footage and still photos is that all of Israel is
entangled in war.
All of Israel is not at war.
I've just walked the serene shores of the Mediterranean, climbed the brick
pathways at peaceful Old Jaffa, leisurely shopped in Tel Aviv's colorful
Carmel Market, took a six-hour bus ride from bustling Tel Aviv to the
resort of Eilat, rode an affectionate camel for four hours in the desert
and mountains, relaxed on a calm four-hour cruise on the Red Sea, ate
falafels at an outdoor cafe, sat on a balcony at Eilat's prestigious Crowne
Plaza viewing the Jordanian border, explored the intriguing history of the
Jewish people at Diaspora Museum, enjoyed a Spicy Craze pizza at Eilat's
Pizza Hut, observed Israelis folk dancing on an outdoor patio, rubbed
elbows with Israel's youthful military and endured minimal security at
Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport - all with the security and safety of my
unadventurous daily walk at my local mall, Glenbrook Square in Fort Wayne,
True, I didn't go near the Gaza Strip - but I've neither visited nor had a
desire to visit the Gaza Strip in my previous two visits to Israel.
"I've lived in Israel 50 years and never been to the Gaza Strip," says an
employee at Timna Park, a nature reserve in southern Israel. "Who comes to
Israel to go to the Gaza Strip?"
Yet, what is happening in the Gaza Strip and other isolated locations is
the stuff that creates CNN footage and front-page photos and headlines -
and, though inaccurate, the impression that Israel hosts border-to-border
And those visions surely will be the ultimate crippler of Israel.
Tourism is down 90 percent, and the industry stands to lose $500 million to
$600 million during the fourth quarter of 2000, reports Tel Aviv's Ha'aretz
daily newspaper. More than 2,000 of Israel's 2,500 licensed tour guides are
idled. The reason for the downturn is simple: Foreign pilgrims, fearing for
their safety, have canceled pending trips to the Holy Land.
Ask Nola Moss and Beryl Ratzer, two of Israel's most respected and busiest
guides, to identify the culprit, and Arafat's name isn't heard. The guides,
like many associated with the tourism industry, blame CNN, the BBC and
other media outlets for misrepresenting the size and scope of the fighting.
Ratzer goes so far as to label CNN and the BBC anti-Israel and
The ripple effect of canceled pilgrimages goes beyond the Nola Mosses and
Beryl Ratzers. Nearly 700 taxi drivers are almost entirely without work,
according to Yehuda Vaknin, manager of the taxi stand at Ben-Gurion
Airport. Nearly 1,000 private bus companies servicing the airport are
reportedly on the verge of collapse because 90 percent of their business is
Souvenir shopping is at a standstill.
Empty hotels expect to result in 10,000 hotel employees' losing their jobs
this year, a loss not taken lightly by Eli Verter, deputy general manager
of marketing for Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Africa Israel Hotel and Resorts.
As he discussed the industry plight, Verter claimed his only consolation to
be a visit in October by 1,700 Japanese representing a manufacturer of food
additives, who stayed at Eilat's Crowne Plaza. Their mission: To explore
Eilat's seaweed, high in beta carotene.
The willingness of the Japanese to overlook Israel's current problems
prompts Israelis to criticize the warning by the U.S. State Department to
Americans to defer travel to Israel.
"Does the Japanese government care less about its nationals?" asks Ratzer.
"It is particularly painful to me that the leaders of Jewish organizations
in America, who are always ready to offer us advice on how to solve our
problems, either stay away or make high-exposure visits but do not lead
their congregations and constituencies on regular visits."
Ratzer, like others, is grateful for Great Britain's request that Jews in
Britain visit Israel in its time of need.
True, the Japanese were not representing a country that had just
experienced terrorist killings. And, true, the Japanese were interested in
seaweed, not holy sites. But Israel is more than holy sites. It's a
wondrous, friendly country with magnificent seascapes, majestic mountains,
compelling deserts, and a rich history.
And it's a country that has had to "Forget reality," the advice of graffiti
crudely painted on an abandoned hut on the beach near Tel Aviv.
Arthur Goldberg, an affable Canadian Jew who moved to Israel five decades
ago to pioneer the travel industry, reacts to the current chaos with two
words: "Deja vu."
"It's been this way for 30 years," he explains.