Thursday, September 20, 2012

Le Breton Israeli Cruise Review Sinks in Ocean of Garbage

Simon Plosker..
Honest Reporting/Backspin..
19 September '12..

On September 15, Gabriella Le Breton published her review of a cruise to Israel in The Times of London (paid subscription only). What followed was a stunning display of ignorance and a lack of fact checking. It started with the teaser:

Fear of violence has cut tourism to Israel but a floating hotel offers a safer way to see fascinating sights

Could The Times have been more inaccurate in its opening salvo?

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, as reported by the Jerusalem Post:

there were 752,000 tourist entries during the first quarter of 2012, an all-time high. There were 2% more tourist entries during the first quarter than in the corresponding quarter of 2011, and 1% more than in the corresponding quarter of 2010, the previous all-time high.

One-day tourist entries rose 78% to 41,000 in March from 23,000 in March 2011.

Is this a country suffering a drop in tourism?

As for the rest of the article, it includes such throwaway scene setters as:

 - Darkness had only just fallen in the Palestinian-controlled city of Bethlehem and already its dark streets were emanating tension — lit not by stars but by the flashing blue lights of armoured police vehicles acting on a security alert. Par for the course in this war-torn region…

 - Israel is not an easy place to visit independently despite it being small.

 - the prospect of spending many uncomfortable hours (sometimes days) in the notorious immigration offices at Israel’s airport and borders.

We asked Mark Feldman, CEO of Israeli travel agent Ziontours Jerusalem for his reaction:

In reading her [Le Bretton's] article, I at first thought she was talking about Jerusalem, New York. Yes that small little town with only a few thousand citizens located not too far from Geneva, New York. No doubt the muggings and fears of New York, post 9/11 were troubling her. Upon further perusal, I realized she was writing about my home county and was flummoxed.

When she writes, “Israel is not an easy place to visit independently” I was confused. With over fifty nonstop flights from all over the world, and over 2 million tourists, the vast majority of visitors are able to visit our rather small country.

Her inane comment that “Fear of violence has cut tourism to Israel” belies the facts that 2012 has tourists coming to Israel in record numbers surpassing all other years!

Her descriptions of Bethlehem and “its dark streets emanating tension” would be hotly contested by the millions of Christians who cherish their visits to the birth place of Jesus, and surprise those joyous pilgrims who have safely enjoyed Bethlehem and the rest of Israel.

Far be it from me to lessen the enjoyment of reading her piece on avoiding threats, battling traffic and going through security at the borders, but after thirty years in the tourism business her overview comes up as provincial at best with an odor of bias.

We welcome all tourists, be those taking a mere one day tour of Israel and then returning to their luxurious cruise ship anchored at one of Israel’s ports or those that elect to spend days and nights in the Holy Land. Staying overnight would have allowed Ms. Le Breton to enjoy the hospitality that is extended to all who visit Israel. The ability to dine in Jerusalem overlooking the Old City, or break bread in the Arab city of Jaffa as the sun sets over the ocean has brought gratification to tens of millions of tourists over the years.

Come enjoy our country; understand the real concerns of all of her peoples: Israeli & Palestinians, Jews, Muslims & Christians. Begin to comprehend what this small country of 7 million inhabitants has built in only 64 years, and you too will understand the miracle that this country has become.

Indeed, we are left to wonder when Gabriella Le Breton boarded her cruise liner. Perhaps some of her security concerns would have made sense over a decade ago at the height of the Palestinian violence and terror of the so-called Second Intifada. Instead we are left with a view of the country utterly distorted by prejudice and a thoroughly inaccurate preconception of today’s Israel.

If you have visited Israel as a tourist or live there, please write to The Times, referring to the article “Enjoy Jerusalem with a stunning sea view”, and make it clear that the description of Israel bears no relation to reality – – and remember to include your postal address and daytime telephone number to stand a chance of being published.

Image: wikimedia/Roberto Vongher/Collision_of_Costa_Concordia_5_crop.jpg


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