The more tourists from abroad return to the Holy Land and the more people we let in at land crossings, the more corona infections we will get from outside. Those are not second waves. Those are first waves. Until there is a vaccine, hopefully within a year, we need to hope for our tourism industry to revive from other sources.
A trickling influx is not going to cut it. Tourism is a large part of Israel’s economy. Our former mayor made it one of Jerusalem’s main sources of income and progress.
The simplest, most elegant, most Zionist, most economical, and logical solution is Israelis massively taking a hike in our own country.
That would solve two problems. It would bring back the tourists. And Israelis then don’t need to risk being infected abroad in countries that frankly don’t have the record, understanding, or medical care to beat the epidemic.
It would also make that less Israeli money is spent outside of Israel.
For most of Israel’s existence, Israelis have had claustrophobia. Surrounded by enemy countries, we felt trapped. So the greatest vacation was to fly away to far away.
Recent exceptions were that Israelis could visit Petra in occupied Jordan, visit the Sinai occupied by Egypt, at their own risk, and go to Turkey. On top of hostilities from their leaders and/or populations against Jews, we now have there also the coronavirus risk.
But let’s face it. So many Israelis have never (and I mean never) been in our capital. They may only know Me’ah She’arim from TV. They have no idea what the Old City looks like. The Knesset, the High Court of Justice building, the Shuk.
How many Israelis have spent any serious time in Eilat, which has both endless beaches (included one-gender beaches) and synagogues?
How many Israeli have visited Beit She’an, Tiberius, and the Golan? How can their histories mean anything to you if you have never been there?
How many Israeli have seen our coast? They live in the hinterland and that’s it.
How many city dwellers have been in a kibbutz lately or ever?
How many Israeli tourists have crossed the Green Line?
How many Jews have been to Arab settlements and vice-versa?
The government should start a massive advertisement campaign for local tourism. Long-travel bus fares should be drastically slashed. Like: return within a month for free. Much of the tourism material should be translated into Hebrew.
Maybe to have the idea gain popularity, we’d have some people scream that such is scandalous, petition the High Court against it, have the State Controller ask questions, have a loud Knesset debate against it, and have the UN and Europe protest the plan. And an Airbnb boom.