Israel hopes tourists return
Temple Mount Western Wall on Shabbat. (photo by David Shankbone via en.wikipedia.org)
Robin and Jon Sirkin prepared to celebrate their son Eitan’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem last weekend. There was a Dr. Who theme and an ice-cream bar planned for the reception at the synagogue after the services. As part of the celebrations, Robin Sirkin’s brother, sister, aunt and cousin were planning to make their first trip to Israel. She booked a trip to southern Israel and a meal at one of Jerusalem’s most expensive restaurants for 15 people.
Four weeks ago, just after the ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, they all canceled their trips. Sirkin, who moved to Israel from Cleveland three years ago with their four children, said she tried to convince her relatives that the ceasefire would hold, but to no avail.
“It’s devastating and heartbreaking and feels unsupportive,” Sirkin told the Media Line. “I think they’re overreacting, but we have a different sense of security here.
She said they held off telling their son that his relatives had canceled, hoping that as the big day he approached he would be more excited about the ceremony and the party, and less disappointed.
“He was a little sad, but he’s trying not to focus on that,” she said.
The Sirkins are not alone. Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours, said that the seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas over the summer has devastated tourism for the rest of the year, except for the Jewish holidays this month, and Christmas. Feldman said they lost about 2,000 bookings, and most of the time waived the cancellation fees.
“Tourism for the rest of 2014 simply doesn’t exist,” Feldman said. “Now we’re looking toward 2015, and hoping the government will begin to lay the seeds to allow tourism to begin to come back.”
Read more at themedialine.org.