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Tag: Stas Misezhnikov

Coming Soon: Hittin’ The Links in the Holy Land

How will Israeli work to further entice worldwide tourists, to come over and play? How about warming up to the world of golfers!

The Tourism Ministry and the Israel Land Administration are planning an NIS 760 million grant, for the building of 16 golf courses across the country, over the next 15 years.

The golf courses could see a 20% increase in hotel occupancy and the average amount of money being spent by tourists may double from $1,000 to $2,000. Sounds like a pretty worthwhile investment.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov says that encouraging golf tourism will encourage both local and foreign investments. The goal is to get golf aficionados to visit the Jewish Country, every year – helping it to compete with other Mediterranean Basin nations.

The Tourism Ministry and the Israel Land Administration will begin scouting for sites to build courses. So far proposed initial sites are at Eilat, the Dead Sea, Tiberias, Hatzor HaGilit, Savyon and Rishon Lezion.

Well kids…It looks like it’s time to polish the clubs and work the kinks out of that swing.

The Eighth Natural Wonder of the World – Khouloud Daibes

It’s set in the lowest point on Earth, and it’s the saltiest lake on Earth – surrounded by a beach of splendid salt crystals, and breathtaking mountains. The Dead Sea is one of Israel’s natural wonders, and it has been one of the wonders of my life. It is actually one of the natural wonders of the entire world – that’s how the Israeli government feels and that’s why they would like to enter it in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World competition.

dead sea 2009So what’s the problem? The problem, as usual, is the damn neighbors. The State of Israel received a letter from the Palestinian tourism minister, Khouloud Daibes, threatening to withdraw their consent to have the Dead Sea participate in the international competition, because the Israeli company, Ahava engages in activity on occupied Palestinian land. Daibes put it like this:

“I express my objection to promoting the Dead Sea in the competition, alongside products like Ahava, which are produced illegally in the Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian lands, and promoting the business of the Megilot Regional Council along the Dead Sea’s northern coast at the international tourism fair in London at the beginning of November.”

Stas Misezhnikov of the Israeli tourism ministry disagreed:

“If the Dead Sea wins the competition, the entire region will prosper, and this will help all the involved countries and entities: Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan…the attempt to drag a complicated diplomatic dispute into a competition which is based on honoring the seven wonders of the world does not serve any of the sides. Moreover, intervening in the competition in this manner may lead to the disqualification of the Dead Sea, and we will all be damaged.”

The minister told Ynet:

“It should be noted that 2008 was a record year in incoming tourism to Israel, and affecting the territories as well, which were visited by more than 1 million tourists. If the Dead Sea wins, this trend will grow even more.”

According to a Dutch Socialist Party website, the foreign minister of Holland intends to investigate if Ahava products, which bear the label, “Made in Israel” are actually made on occupied land.

The Dead Sea made it to the list of Natural Wonders of the World last July, along with 27 other sites, among them:
The Grand Canyon, Matterhorn, The Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Galapagos Islands, the Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan, Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto, Ireland’s Moher Cliffs and the Black Forest of Germany.

Pope’s Visit Anticipated Amid Property Disputes

Pope Benedict XVIThe arrival in Israel of Pope Benedict XVI on May 14 is already being prepared for in earnest by Israeli and Catholic Church authorities. The visit of the Pontiff will include a formal call to Israel President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi, and to the Beit HaShoah Holocaust memorial as well as the usual holy places in the Old City and elsewhere. Benedict’s visit to Yad Vashem will be the second by a reining Pontiff following Pope John Paul II ‘s historic visit there in March, 2000. Being of German descent, and due to his membership in the National Socialist Youth Movement as a child, his visit to Israel and to Yad Vashem takes on an even more significant aspect.

The visit will not be without its problems, however, as the Catholic Church is presently in dispute with the Israeli government over the ownership of some church properties in Jerusalem and other locations, including the building on Mt. Zion which is known by the Church as the Coenaculum, where Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper. Other disputed properties include the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Church and Gardens of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the Monastery on the summit of Mt. Tabor; and the Church of the Multiplication, which is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Church JerusalemPresident Peres, in a gesture of good will is trying to persuade the government to abide by the Church’s requests (demands?), hoping that this will enable more tourists and pilgrims to visit Israel and the Holy Land. So far, however, the government including the Interior and Tourism ministers are not ready to give these places up. As was noted to a Haaretz reporter by Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, “If we were certain this great gift would bring millions of Christian pilgrims to visit here we would have good reason to agree to these demands. But since we are not certain this will happen, why should we give out gifts?”

A considerable amount of Christian church property is in the control of various religious denominations, but these particular properties have been in dispute for some time, especially ones located in East Jerusalem since the Six Day War of 1967. The Pope’s visit in itself will be a logistical challenge, and some protests are being planned against the temporary closure of some of the holy sites he will visit, including the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and the Kotel or Western Wall in the Old City.

Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000 had hoped to bring millions of pilgrims to Israel, due to it heralding the 2nd Millennium. But not only did this not happen (less than 100,000 actually came) but the Second Intifada broke out in September of the same year. Many people wonder now what will be the outcome of this papal visit, taking the current political and security state of the region into account.

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