«Jewish Observer»
April 2002
5762 Iyar

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I was going to attend the meeting held, according to my editor, in connection with the visit by the representative of the Ministry of Tourism of Israel, but I didn't know for sure what was ahead of me. I pictured myself the press-conference of a respectable person from the mentioned agency who would tell the writing fraternity about all places of interest in the country of three religions...

But when I reached the tourist agency the meeting was to be held at, everything turned out differently. No, the Ministerial enjoy was present, but no mass media, except the "Jewish observer", showed interest in the event. They did it in vain because the information voiced by the tourist agents was if not sensational then, at least, interesting.

You may think tourists from Ukraine do not visit Israel due to Palestinian acts of terror, which continue for already a year and half. Or, probably, they do not risk to be shot down by a dear Ukrainian missile flying back home? Strange as it may seem, but the reason is different! Tours to Israel are in demand despite anything.

The fact Israel sees no tourists from Ukraine is explained by... Last May a new Consul of Israel named Ioram Khavivyan arrived in Kiev. This Ioram, according to the tour agents, doesn't allow tourists to Israel at all. In other words, all those wishing to visit Israel as tourists do not receive visas. After the information of the representatives of different tourist agencies, Khavivyan refuses to grant visas even to the Jews! (for example, in case when an improvident tourist during his previous visit to Israel decided to stay one-two weeks longer). It was not so simple to obtain a tourist visa to Israel before last May, too, but there were, at least, some chances. The "Black June" (the characteristic of agencies' representatives) reigned with the arrival of a new Consul and the level of tourism came to naught.

I heard many interesting stories about high-ranking Ukrainian officials and renowned in Ukraine people who either had been refused in visiting the Promised Land or had chosen another route in view of no prospects during an interview with the obstinate official. Such policy created the situation when the newspapers totally stopped publishing the Israeli resorts' advertisements.

This hollow was successfully filled by the neighboring and "friendly" to Israel Egypt... Needless to say that this everything occurs when the touristic sector of Israel experiences the hardest ever times.

In such situation there arises a reasonable question, "Why did the representative of the Ministry of Tourism come to Kiev?"

The Director of the European Department of the Ministry Haim Golan-Gutin has informed us about the plans to open this summer the Ministry's representation in Kiev with the purpose to promote tourism to Israel, to help tour agents, authors of touristic booklets. Mr. Goran-Gutin expressed his conviction that all problems would be solved during the coming joint meeting of the General Directors of the Ministries of Tourism, Internal and Foreign Affairs of Israel.

We hope the mentioned Ministries will manage to coordinate their positions and to overcome the absurdity of the situation when the Embassy's official does not let tourists into the country. Ioram Khavinyan showed no desire to give any comments to the "Jewish Observer" having said only that he fulfils his duties. (it is, probably, worth mentioning here that over 50% of those who had left for Israel before May 2001 as tourists chose not to return). Though it is reasonable to develop other mechanisms to ensure tourists' return home instead of the total refusal in visa's support.

Until today our question to the MFA of Israel on legitimacy of Consul's actions has been left unanswered. This may, though, be understood - the Ministry has a lot of things to do. Alongside with this, even in war times it is worth deciding on whom to let into the country and whom not to. Then, probably, instead of antiglobalists who now form part of the surrounding of the main Palestinian killer, the country will welcome tourists owing to whom the unemployment in the Israeli hotels, at least, will subside.


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