NEW YORK -- The Israel Government Tourist Office -- approaching
nearly three years of nonstop crisis in the homeland and a
near-total collapse of the tourism market -- is in the process of
shutting down two and maybe three of its offices in North America.
By the end of July, only two offices will remain open for
certain, in New York and Toronto. Chicago and Dallas will close,
but a final decision has not been made about Los Angeles.
To pick up the slack, the tourist office plans to recruit
volunteers to represent Israel at trade shows and at meetings with
churches and synagogues, according to Hiam Gutin-Golan, the
Ministry of Tourism's consul for tourism Northeast in New York.
The volunteers have not yet been identified and trained, but he
said, "If I get a hundred good ones, I'll be happy."
Meanwhile, the news from the Middle East gives cause for some
hope these days, as tour operators report business has started to
And in November, for the first time in three years, Israel will
sponsor a nationwide road show of seminars for pastors, rabbis and
The tourist office was looking ahead last year and early this
year when it took about 60 agents and tour operators from the U.S.
and Europe to Israel.
While noting that "we had taken the Jewish market for granted,"
he said the office has taken steps to renew connections with Jewish
In one of its more recent projects, the tourist office
distributed pledge cards in synagogues, seeking promises to visit
Israel by a stated date. With those cards, Gutin-Golan said, the
office is gathering a good database of prospects.
Israel will advertise in July in Christian and Jewish
newspapers, and to a modest extent on Jewish-themed radio programs,
using the theme, "Don't Put Your Soul on Hold." The campaign will
have another short run in time for the Jewish holidays in