Half of the participants on either Opposite Pa ge: Babs motionally, the government is holding
and Iry P rotetch
out the carrot of luxury accommoda-
adult Mission were not on Federation
got to Israel
tions, trendy American clubs and West-
rolls and were not solicited until after finally
and loy ed it.
ern cultural fare as a way of luring the
the trips, she says.
"Whether they saw the ad in The Above: Lin da Rabin uninitiated. Eilat, at the southern tip
Hammel! wants to
of Israel, is being packaged as a place
Jewish News or a poster at a shopping
sun and fun, much like Key West
center, we reached out to people who
she g oes.
or Venice Beach. Still, many more Eu-
were unaffiliated and affiliated. If
ropeans than Americans choose Eilat
you've got the right people to say
they're going — David Hermelin and Larry as a vacation spot because direct and relative-
Jackier, for example — [who] were saying, ly cheap flights are readily available.
Mr. Ben-David says American Jews gener-
`Come with me,' it's a mushroom effect. We told
them what they were going to do, that they were ally spend more money in Israel than Chris-
going to get special treatment and do this, that tians, who tend to come as pilgrims. "You can
and the other thing, and we did it at a reason- compare a Jewish package and a Christian
able price range. They didn't have to be con- package, and you can see the Jewish package
is more expensive," he says. "They want the
tributors," Ms. Sherman says.
Getting American Jews to Israel is about King David, the Hyatt, the Laronne."
Professional. conferences and conventions are
making it "the place to be," she adds. When peo-
ple heard the first Miracle Mission was sold out also key in turning the tide on lackluster Amer-
and that the second one was filling up quickly, ican Jewish tourism. Mr. Ben-David believes
they clamored to get on the waiting list, she that unaffiliated Jewish professionals who vis-
it on business might discover they'd like to go
"If I get 10 of my friends to go, the 11th is go- back. Israel, he says; is one of the 15 top con-
vention sites in the world.
ing to want to come," Ms. Sherman says.
Aside from a widespread lack of affiliation,
For the tourism ministry, attracting Amer-
ican Jews to Israel is a conundrum, at best. Pro- tlw.primdb, iniped*Otto Israeli travel is fear
of terrorist violence, Mr. Ben-David says.
A crisis, like the winter terrorist bombings
in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, caused a flurry of
trip cancellations, Mr. Ben-David says. Chris-
tians, on the other hand, "believe that 'the Lord'
will take care of them, so they don't cancel if
there is a crisis."
Some travel agents concur. Janet Randolph
of Book Couzens Travel in Southfield says many
people nixed their travel plans to Israel in Feb-
ruary and March this year.
But, she says, she has noticed an upsurge in
Israeli tourism this year, especially among fam-
ilies celebrating b'nai mitzvah. And many of
the people who've been on a Federation-spon- •
sored trip decide they'd like to return to cover
Numbers seem to reflect Ms. Randolph's ob-
servation. Last year, 45 percent of all Ameri-
can visitors, or roughly 210,000, previously had
been to Israel.
Michael Hochheiser of Crown Travel in Oak
Park, which primarily serves the Orthodox Jew-
ish community, agrees that travel to Israel is
generally on the rise, "except when tragedy
After the bombing around Purim time, one