23 April 2018 - 8 Iyyar 5778 - ח' אייר ה' אלפים תשע"ח
Record number of tourists visited the Holy Land in 2017 E-mail

An all-time record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, 25% more than in 2016. The Ministry of Tourism estimated that incoming tourism contributed NIS 20 billion to the Israeli economy.

The largest number of tourists was from the US – over 700,000 tourists, 21% more than in 2016. Russia was in second place with 307,000 tourists, a 26% increase that was attributable to the growth in routes and flights from Russia to Israel, some of which are run by low-cost airlines, and the exclusion of Turkey from the Russian tourist map in recent years.

In third place was France, with 284,000 tourists, 8% more than in 2016, followed by Germany in fourth place with 202,000 tourists, a 34% rise over 2016, and the UK in fifth place, with 185,000 tourists, 10% more than in 2016.

Other important sources of incoming tourism included Ukraine with 137,000 tourists, China with 105,000, Italy (93,000), Poland (85,000) and Canada (75,000). Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is focusing on China due to its enormous potential as a source of tourists.

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Polish city of Krakow opens kosher hotel E-mail

Seventy-five years after the Nazis deported Krakow Jews to concentration camps, descendants of survivors have opened the Polish city’s first post-Holocaust kosher hotel.

Hotel Polin, located near John Paul II International Airport Krakow-Balice, held an official launch in December. The 38-room hotel has an inhouse synagogue and elevators for use on Shabbat, and its kosher kitchen is under the supervision of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich.

A double room at the hotel, including breakfast, costs approximately US$45 per night. The hotel offers shuttles to the city centre, to the historically Jewish Kazimierz district, approximately six miles away.

A non-Jewish local businessman invested the US$560,000 cost to build the hotel, which may open a branch in Kazimierz. The hotel’s business model is based on growing traffic between Israel and Poland.

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To honour the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, the 19th China Shanghai International Arts Festival held an event titled “Israel Culture Week” from 11 to 18 November.

Organised by the Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai and the centre for China Shanghai International Arts Festival, Israel Culture Week presented the comprehensive and classical achievements of Israeli art, providing local Chinese people with a chance to embrace Israeli traditions and culture through events.

As part of Israel Culture Week, Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower was lit up in blue and white, the colours of the Israeli flag. The building is one of the world’s most famous structures and a landmark that is synonymous with the city.

The festival included shows by some of top Israeli performers such as Inbal Pinto’s dance troupe, world renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Yaron Kohlberg and songstress Ester Rada.

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US aircraft carrier gets a Torah scroll E-mail

Jewish sailors aboard the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford now have a Torah scroll to use during their six-to-eight-month stints at sea.

The umbrella body for Jewish chaplains, the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, dedicated the scroll on 29 November aboard the ship in Norfolk, Virginia. It was dedicated to the memory Sgt. Jacob Kamaras, a veteran of the US Army Air Corps during WWII. On hand for the ceremony were his son, Philip Kamaras, a New York lawyer, and his namesake grandson, Jacob Kamaras, a journalist and publicist in Houston.

The Kamaras family helped pay for the US$36,000 scroll as part of the chaplains’ council’s “Torah for Our Troops” campaign, which equips chaplains with travel-size Torah scrolls. The scroll, slightly smaller than those used in most synagogues, is designed for use in the shipboard chapel.

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Adolf Hitler waxwork removed from museum in Indonesia E-mail

A museum in Yogjakarta, Indonesia, which until recently had allowed visitors to snap selfies with a full-sized waxwork figure of Adolf Hitler against the backdrop of the Auschwitz death camp gates, has taken the figure down following a storm of criticism.

The De Mata De Arca visual effects museum has around 100 waxworks of celebrities, politicians and fictional characters, according to its website.

The figure of Hitler could be found standing between Star Wars’ Darth Vader and Indonesian leader Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. It was placed against a wall-sized banner depicting the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp with the notorious “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) sign.

The wax Hitler, which had been on display since 2014, proved popular with locals, who shared their selfies on social media platforms. The snapshots even showed some of the visitors doing the Nazi salute.

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