No sun on the South Bank? Try West Bank

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

AS IS­RAELI of­fi­cials worked hard this week to pro­mote easyJet’s new Lon­don to Tel Aviv ser­vice, Bri­tish tourism ex­perts were ad­vo­cat­ing an al­ter­na­tive hol­i­day venue — the West Bank.

EasyJet’s five-day charm of­fen­sive, run jointly with the Is­raeli Em­bassy, came ahead of its first low-cost flight to Is­rael, which takes off on Novem­ber 2.

The cam­paign saw a Lon­don bus travel around the cap­i­tal’s at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing Le­ices­ter Square and Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket, of­fer­ing a taste of what tourists could ex­pect in Tel Aviv.

Jaffa or­anges, a surf board sim­u­la­tor and a Bauhaus ar­chi­tec­ture ex­hi­bi­tion were among the at­trac­tions.

The bus was met by mi­nor protests from anti-Is­rael cam­paign­ers at a num­ber of stops. On Tues­day, two mem­bers of the Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign made the words “Boy­cott Is­rael” out of bricks and bro­ken bot­tles on the banks of the Thames af­ter be­ing moved away from the bus by po­lice.

De­spite the ef­forts of the pro­mo­tions team, some tourists re­mained un­con­vinced of the White City’s suit­abil­ity as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion.

Wendy Smart, from Devon, said: “I was more in­ter­ested in the boy­cotters. They are just down there on the beach and I won­dered what they were do­ing.

“I don’t think I would go to Is­rael on hol­i­day but then I wouldn’t want to go to Libya or a host of other places. I don’t want to get blown up.”

Matth­eas Stritzel and his fam­ily, from Ham­burg, Ger­many, had sim­i­lar con­cerns.

He said: “We heard that at the mo­ment it’s still a lit­tle bit danger­ous to go there be­cause of the con­flict. I would like to go, but I wouldn’t take the chil­dren, it’s too danger­ous.”

A suit­able al­ter­na­tive to Tel Aviv, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment body UK Trade and In­vest­ment, is the West Bank.

A group of Bri­tish tourism ex­perts vis­ited the area on a fact-find­ing mis­sion last week and re­turned promis­ing to mar­ket it as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion.

Among the West Bank’s ap­par­ent tourist at­trac­tions are Wadi Kelt, a vil­lage which is home to the hyrax, a rare mam­mal sim­i­lar to a fat rab­bit or guinea pig; Ra­mal­lah, which is said to have a bur­geon­ing café cul­ture and “a good Ital­ian­restau­rant”; and Tay­beh, which holds an an­nual Ok­to­ber­fest.

Tourism So­ci­ety chair Ali­son Cryer took part in the visit and said she was “en­thused”.

“There is a lot of po­ten­tial for Pales­tine to di­ver­sify their tourism prod­uct to in­clude short breaks, his­tory, cul­ture, gas­tron­omy tours and hik­ing.”

Sur­pris­ingly, Is­raeli Em­bassy spokesman Ran Gi­dor agreed: “Is­rael has been work­ing hard with the US and Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to nur­ture de­vel­op­ment and growth in the West Bank in or­der to foster a pros­per­ous and se­cure so­ci­ety.

“It is no sur­prise that the West Bank will be­come a ma­jor tourist des­ti­na­tion. The PA’s will­ing­ness to com­bat ex­trem­ism has pre­dictably re­sulted in sub­stan­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits for the pop­u­la­tion.”

The For­eign Of­fice no longer warns against travel to the West Bank, but ad­vises that the sit­u­a­tion “re­mains frag­ile and could de­te­ri­o­rate at short no­tice”. In March, an on­line prop­erty list­ings com­pany said it would ad­ver­tise hol­i­day homes in Gaza, just weeks af­ter the con­clu­sion of Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead.

Catch­ing a few rays: a slightly be­wil­dered par­tic­i­pant in one of the Lon­don Tel Aviv tourism pro­mo­tions

A Jeri­cho at­trac­tion

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