Text: Žikica Milošević
Israel has a perfect climate if you are a tourist- as tourists love the sun and hate the rain and grey skies. The most beautiful photographs are made under the ravenously blue sky, and Israel has it almost entire year. According to the State Statistical Office, 3.6 million tourists visited Israel last year, which is 25% more than in 2016.
This invasion is not surprising. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and even in Berlin, Paris, Brussels or Nice, and because of the war in the once popular Syria, the Jewish state became one of the warm and historically important destinations in which almost nothing bad happens. The current surge of tourists is attributed to two facts – one is the Open Skies Agreement, which has resulted in an increased number of flights to Israel at cheaper rates and attracted low cost carriers (which now fly from Tel Aviv or Eilat), and the other is the already mentioned relative peace in Israel in recent years, unlikein many other global tourist destinations. What scares the Israelites, as Haaretz writes, is that the hotel and hostel network is developing too slowly in relation to the growing number of tourist visits, and often there is no place for tourists to stay, so they are forced to stay in smaller towns. Bearing in mind that Israel is smaller than Vojvodina, everything is pretty close, even if you are staying 30km away from Jerusalem.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Last year, tourism in Israel generated 20 billion shekels in revenue, making 2017 the best year in the history of Israeli tourism. Israel has numerous historical and religious sites, beaches, archaeological sites, cultural sites and eco-tourism. The country also has the largest number of museums per capita in the world. In 2009, the two most visited locations were the Wailing Wall and the Grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yonah, which is rather surprising for non-Jews. The most popular tourist attraction is Masada, and the most visited city is Jerusalem. The biggest percentage of tourists originate from the United States (19% of all tourists), followed by Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, China, Italy, Poland and Canada. Religious tourism is one of the most important branches of tourism – hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Israel each year, and the main pilgrimage destinations are the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. The Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Grave, and the Golden Dome of the Rock all attract pilgrims from all three Abramic religions to Jerusalem; the most sacred of the holy cities, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold.
Furthermore, the Israeli coastal city of Haifa is the spiritual center of the Baha’i-Bahaiism religion, where the tomb of the religion’s founder, Seyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi is located. The Bahá’ís deem that all prophets are, in a way, true and that they have seen and presented only a part of the truth, each speaking of it in their own way. They also believe that the prophets are not in conflict with one another, but rather their non-englightened followers are.
The Dead Sea is the nature’s hospital that helps in treatment of many diseases, especially skin and rheumatic diseases. The combination of minerals and the warm, sunny weather, mud baths and clean air, saturated with oxygen, contribute to successful treatment of many diseases, including skin diseases. The Dead Sea resorts are unmatched in the world due to the exclusivity of this water reservoir. The cold air in Arad helps patients with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The hot springs of Hamat Gader help alleviate pain in the joints. It was here that the ancient Romans built their baths. Pools with thermomineral water in Hamei Gaash are the main balneological resort of Israel. The coral reefs and warm tropical climates of Eilat attract tourists from all over the world.
Tel Aviv is a coastal city and a world centre of beach tourism. Tel Aviv is not only a cultural hub, but also a youth centre. The city is located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, with excellent beaches and a vibrant nightlife. Tens of thousands of young tourists visit Tel Aviv every year. “A City That Never Sleeps” is a motto that has already become a synonym for Tel Aviv, along with the celebration called “White Night” that takes place on the last Thursday in June. During the White Night, restaurants and cultural institutions are open until late night, many places offer discounts, and there are beach parties and street performances. You can get whatever you want in Israel – religion, mountains, sea, healing, deserts, culture, night clubs! So, why does such a surge of tourists come as a surprise to you?!