Howard Johnson Plans 300-Room Property in Judean Desert

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PARSIPPANY, N.J.--Between the Dead Sea and Jericho, not far from Israel's border with Jordan, a stretch of desert has been purchased for a Howard Johnson property, an official of the project said.

According to Eli Nefussi of the Israel Land Development Hotel Co., the master franchisee for Howard Johnson Israel, a 50-acre lot between Jericho and the Dead Sea has been earmarked for tourism.

Nefussi said developing the Judean Desert land will take about one year and construction of the 300-room hotel probably another two years.

Due to the area's proximity to Jordan, he said, and because of the peace treaty signed with that country four years ago, the project planners are considering including construction crews from that country.

The Dead Sea has drawn tourists and health enthusiasts since ancient times. Its position as the lowest spot on earth provides sunbathing under filtered rays (considered helpful for skin conditions), and the water's high mineral content has been designated as therapeutic (especially for muscle and joint problems).

The water is too heavy to support vegetation or animal life, so it is eerily quiet. The heavy water also keeps people afloat, providing an exotic experience for many visitors.

The Howard Johnson property will be on the northern shore of the Dead Sea.

Nefussi called proximity to Jericho an advantage because a casino is under construction there, but it is not clear whether the casino will ever open: Casinos are not legal in Israel, but Jericho is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.

Even without a casino, the area provides vacationers with several entertainment options. The property itself will certainly include a spa, he said. Other hotels have been built along the southern end of the Dead Sea, and they provide dining and entertainment venues in addition to spas.

Nearby attractions include the excavated ruins at Herodian Fortress atop Masada; the oasis at Ein Gedi; the caves at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; the Attraxia water park, and the desert, which can be explored by camel or all-terrain vehicles.

The U.S.-based Howard Johnson chain has opened seven other properties in Israel in the past year. The former Shalom Hotel in Tel Aviv became the chain's seventh property in Israel in March. The hotel faces the Mediterranean in the central business and shopping district and features modern business services, a restaurant and a lounge.

The other Howard Johnson properties are the Ruth Rimonim in Safed in the Galilee; the Optima Plaza in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv; the Hermon Heights Resort Village in the Golan Heights; the Galei Kinnereth in Tiberias, and the deluxe Neptune and the family-oriented Galei Eilat in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

A 17-story property is under construction near the International Convention Center in Jerusalem and is expected to open later this year.

A hotel is being built in Nazareth that is due to open in time for Christian observances in 2000.

Howard Johnson Hotels & Inns, Phone: (800) 654-4656.
Web: www.hojo.com

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