16 July 2019 - 13 Tammuz 5779 - י"ג תמוז ה' אלפים תשע"ט
China tourists at all-time high E-mail

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Israel hit a record high last year, according to a senior Israeli tourism official.

Figures were recently revised, showing that over 113,000 Chinese visitors travelled to Israel in 2017, up 41% year on year. So China remains Israel’s fastest-growing source of tourists, according to Bora Shnitman, China director of the Israeli Government Tourism Office.

Shnitman attributed the surge in the number of Chinese tourists to more targeted promotion campaigns, streamlined visa applications and increasingly convenient transportation with more direct flights.

Followers of Israel’s official tourism WeChat account rose more than 200% year on year in 2017, while the number of its Sina Weibo fans increased by over 60%. Chinese tourists can fly to Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv directly from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and Shnitman expects more direct flight routes from southwest and southern China this year.

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Israeli intelligence foils terrorist bomb plot E-mail

The Israeli army said it provided intelligence that prevented a plot by the Islamic State to bomb an Australian flight last August.

An unnamed senior army officer said in February that the Military Intelligence Unit 8200 had thwarted the planned attack, according to The Times of Israel. “The unit provided exclusive intelligence that led to the prevention of an air attack by the Islamic State in 2017 in Australia,” the officer said. “The foiling of the attack saved dozens of innocent lives and proved Unit 8200’s position as a major player in the intelligence fight against the Islamic State.”

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Continuing strong diplomatic relations, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with his wife Sara, made an official visit to India from 14 to 19 January, travelling to Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Agra. Such was the importance of the visit that Netanyahu was the first international leader invited to India in 2018.

The visit marked 26 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and took place approximately six months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “On this visit I intend to strengthen bilateral relations even more. This visit is an opportunity to enhance co-operation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power. Indian Prime Minister Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit.” Also joining the official visit was the largest business delegation that has ever accompanied a Prime Minister of Israel.

Israeli citizen Moshe Holtzberg, 12, whose parents died in the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai, joined the trip, as Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised him during their meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi in Israel last July. The nanny who took care of Moshe as a baby also attended.

Prime Minister Modi welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife in person when their plane touched down in New Delhi. This was a surprise, as the Minister of State for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, had originally been scheduled to welcome them. Netanyahu did meet with Swaraj later. On the first day both prime ministers attended an important ceremony to rename a square in New Delhi. The square is dedicated to the Indian soldiers who fell during WWI in the fighting to liberate Haifa.

On 16 January, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife, along with Prime Minister Modi, attended the Raisina Dialogue, at which Netanyahu was the featured speaker. Other speakers included former heads of government and senior ministers from around the world. The multilateral conference is held annually in New Delhi, and since its inception in 2016, the conference has emerged as India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics.

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Israel’s ambassador rededicates two of India’s oldest synagogues E-mail

During the festival week of Chanukah last December, Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon rededicated two of Calcutta’s oldest synagogues, the Beth El synagogue and the Magen David synagogue, after they were recently restored.

“Remembering and preserving the glorious past of Jewish Calcutta, contributing to the fabric of the city of Calcutta in the present and looking at the future, two synagogues were rededicated today – in the most festive atmosphere of Chanukah,” he wrote on Twitter.

Also present at the events was Tzvia Valdan, daughter of the late Israeli president Shimon Peres. “Moments of happiness,” tweeted Israeli diplomat in Delhi Adva Vilchinski, describing the event as “historic and exciting”. “The synagogues are living symbol of the special relationship between #India #Jews & #Israel,” Vilchinski tweeted.

During the event, Ambassador Carmon lit the Chanukiah and students – mostly Muslims and Christians – sang Hebrew songs.

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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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