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Home > Email Forwards >All of Israel is not at war

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, Ind.
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 war.
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 anti-Semitic.
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 tourism-related.
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.


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