“If we could, we would stay in Tel Aviv forever. The people are wonderful, the food is outstanding, the views are splendid, the soldiers walk around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
This is the impression Israel made on bloggers from Belgrade, Serbia who returned to their country enamored with the Jewish state.
The six skillful and curious bloggers who write on an array of topics were brought to Israel on a joint Foreign Ministry-Tourism Ministry venture.
They spent time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Akko and the Galilee. Upon their return to Serbia they wrote that they are “completely in love with Israel.”
Throughout their visit they tweeted and posted messages on their blogs on their Israel experience. Orosh Igniacivic, who runs an online tourism group tweeted: “The moment the plane flew over Tel Aviv, we felt as if we were landing in New Belgrade. We felt as if we are wandering around our own home. We met wonderful people, the food was outstanding and the views, splendid.”
Another blogger, Milan Maglov, mainly active on Facebook (with 115,000 friends) wrote on his page: “How unfortunate that only few Serbians know what Israel can offer. I feel that I am on a dreamlike expedition. Serbia, brace yourself for a boom of great stories and pictures!! Our Israelization begins now.”
Another blogger named Milan Kamponeski, who writes under the pen name “Amitz”, wrote in his blog read by 100,000 monthly readers: “I felt at home in Tel Aviv. At the Carmel Market I asked for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of candy and the seller pushed a whole kilo (2.2 pounds) on me. I felt like I was in Belgrade.
“Israel is a land of contrasts. Soldiers who look like mere teenagers wandering around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Serbia Yossi Levy hosted the bloggers upon their return to Serbia. “It is good to hear such warm words from the mouths of such a happy, colorful and young group of Serbians, all of whom are not Jewish and who never visited Israel before. We didn’t hear one bad word, not even about the airport security checks,” said Levy
“Israel, as it is perceived through tweets and Facebook pages, is a beautiful, young, open, friendly, safe and fun country. There is no doubt that over the next few weeks, thousands of young Serbians will discover Israel from a new and especially pleasant perspective.”
According to him, “this is the most effective and best way to circumvent stereotypes and to demonstrate to young, dynamic European audiences what the real Israel is.”
SAS Scandinavian Airlines will add another weekly flight to its Tel Aviv-Copenhagen route.
The company will offer this summer four weekly flights between Israel and Denmark and two direct flights to Stockholm, Sweden.
The flights to Copenhagen will leave on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, allowing for convenient connection flights to all Scandinavian countries, Europe and the United States.
The flights to Stockholm will leave on Mondays and Fridays.
Some 400,000 Israelis visited Greece last year, and a further growth in the number of tourists is expected this year, Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni told Yedioth Ahronoth last week.
Kefalogianni arrived in Israel with a large delegation to participate in the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) held in Tel Aviv.
According to the minister, 2012 was a record year in tourism from Israel to Greece for several reasons – apart from the boycott on Turkey.
“Many Israelis have roots in Greece, and the wide audience receives value for money in our country with competitive prices compared to the region’s countries. In the past year we have had 16 million tourists.
“We have developed sports tourism and religious tourism, and we’re now developing medical tourism as well,” she added.
Kefalogianni noted that Greece was a safe country for tourists. “Even when there were fiery demonstrations in the country, not a single tourist was hurt, because the Greek understand how important tourism is for the economy.”
The Tel Aviv Municipality expects 35,000 runners to jam the streets of the city on March 15, when the fifth annual Tel Aviv marathon is held, making it the largest such event in the history of Israel.
Speaking at a press conference at the Tahana complex in south Tel Aviv on Monday, Mayor Ron Huldai touted the 2013 Tel Aviv Gillette Marathon as an event of great importance “not only for the city but also for Israel as a whole,” adding that it is in keeping with city efforts such as the expansion of bike lanes and the citywide bike rental service, intended to encourage more residents to get involved in sports and outdoor activities.
Billing it as a holiday (“hag marathon”) and a “non-stop party,” the Tel Aviv municipality sees the marathon as an integral piece in its plans to increase the city’s status as a sports-friendly city, and has invested at least NIS 12 million in the production of this year’s marathon.
The 35,000 expected runners will take run along seven different routes, with about 2,500 of them doing the full marathon and the rest running half marathons, 10k runs or shorter stretches. The production will require well over 1,000 police officers and 2,000 volunteers to provide security, and 4,800 traffic barriers will be set up across town before and during the race, the municipality said on Monday.
City councilman and head of the city sport council Alon Solar said the marathon has “international importance” for Tel Aviv, in that it will help efforts to promote the city’s offerings.
Like Huldai, he said that the marathon is part of the city’s campaign to increase local participation in sports among Tel Aviv residents.
According to the municipality, 25,000 people have already signed up for the run, including over 1,000 people from outside of Israel.
Among these will be professional runners who will fly in for the race and compete for the NIS 15,000 purse.
“Like many others, I too am excited by the news of the upcoming visitof President Barak Obama in Israel,” he wrote on his Facebook page
“Shortly after the White House announced the visit, many Israelis raised their hope that the President will speak to the Israeli public, here in Tel Aviv’s main square. I join these voices.”
The initiative has already received more than 8,000 likes on Facebook. It aims to persuade Obama to speak to hundreds of thousands of Israelis at Rabin Square.
“Just as President Obama spoke to large audiences in other parts of the world, I would be happy and honored to invite him to Tel Aviv-Yafo where he is welcome to address the Israeli public at Rabin Square – a location that is a symbol of the Israeli Democracy and of our ongoing desire to live a peaceful and normal life,” Huldai wrote.
One of the people behind the initiative is Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer who said that there “is a significant voice in the Israeli public that needs to be heard.”
He hopes that with tens of thousands of likes the page would attract the attention of world media “and perhaps even Obama himself.”
Oppenheimer revealed that Peace Now is planning to hold a large rally at the square during Obama’s visit which he said was a “historic opportunity to bring the peace camp back to the streets.”
Huldai’s deputy, Arnon Giladi (Likud) is not so keen on the idea. “I share the mayor’s excitement over the president’s visit but I think this is no more than a gimmick,” he said.
“Talks and political moves do not belong on stages meant for concerts and rallies. The government must be left to run state matters and foreign relations.”
This Mediterranean port city, known as Israel’s unofficial northern capital, is full of historic, religious and cultural places to visit, as you’ll see in this video.
Just for starters, there’s the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Culture Center (http://www.beit-hagefen.com/index.php…) that runs the annual December Holiday of Holidays (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/IsraelExper…) event artistically celebrating Hannukah, Christmas and Ramadan. There’s the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery and Church on Mount Carmel and there’s the Carmelit — Israel’s only subway system and the world’s shortest underground transit route.
And don’t forget the scenic beaches, seaside boardwalks and promenades.
Haifa is also one of Israel’s main R&D centers for companies such as Google, Intel, SanDisk, Qualcomm, Philips and Microsoft.