August 8, 2012 | 10:19 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Tel-Aviv was listed in Lonely Planets’ “Top Ten Hedonistic Cities Worldwide” list. On the surface, this is yet another nice achievement to add to our pat-on-the-back list. But if we dig a little deeper, we can find out there’s so much more into the appearance on this list. Israel is one of the most unique places on planet Earth. We may be a small place, which can sometimes be hard to find on the map, but in our tiny territory we have all kinds of scenery and activities: from late-night cities to beautiful beaches to historical places to small, quiet suburbs. You name it- we got it. Every Israeli knows that they can find a place in Israel for any type of an activity. If you need proof of just how unique Israel is, just ask out neighbors- they all want it for themselves…
The unfortunate fact is, however, that most of the tourists who choose Israel as their vacation destination are either Jews who come for a back-to-the-roots trip, or very religious people who come to experience the holy places for the major three religions. This is how it works, and this is how it has always been. Because of our negative publicity in the world media, and our reoccurring appearances in the news under the taglines: bombing, security and Iran, people just don’t see us as a vacation possibility. I don’t blame anyone, I would probably do the same. But it is not easy to experience so much without the ability to share it and sound reliable. Programs such as Taglit help our image a lot, because it begins with fulfilling the tourists’ expectations to see the land of the Jews, and evolves into everything that Israel is.. What I remember the most from my Taglit experience was how in the last day, the Americans admitted they were both surprised and amazed to see Israel as it really is, and like they never knew.
Programs as such do an amazing job in showing all the various faces of Israel, and thanks to these programs, many Jews do come back here to experience non-Jewish experiences. However the problem is that even if these programs do attract more tourists, they still address only the Jewish audience, when Israel’s target audience is way more varied. A lot had been said, by me as well, on how Israel is so much more than rockets in the sky and day to day fear. But a lot is still needed to be said on how Israel is so much more than Judaism. We have clubs, and quiet cabins up in the mountains, and beaches and archeological sites and constant cultural action. Israel has a lot to give, and I see no reason for it not to be a consideration when planning the next vacation. Sure, there were bombings here, and they sometimes reoccur, but the last time I checked, worse things have happened in cities which are major tourist attractions worldwide. So this really should not be a reason to not come here. Fortunately, Tel Aviv is slowly but surely rising as a popular city, and is heard alongside names such as New York or Berlin. This rising popularity got it the respected place on Lonely Planet’s list, and to me, this is a truly remarkable landmark, and hopefully, another baby step in our way of being recognized as a world class city and a popular vacation destination.
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