El Al Gets N.Y. Competition
Israel’s High Court rejected a petition from El Al on Feb. 23, clearing the way for competition on the highly lucrative New York-Tel Aviv route from Israir, the country’s second-largest carrier.
El Al said it will study the decision before issuing a response. In a statement, Israir said that the decision will increase competition, ultimately benefiting consumers.
Israir currently flies three to four flights to New York each week on a charter basis, and is expecting to expand its service by leasing two new aircraft and hiring 200 workers.
Israeli Tourism Up 27 Percent
More than 1.9 million tourists traveled to Israel in 2005, a 27 percent rise over 2004, according to the country’s Tourism Ministry. The United States accounted for the largest showing, with 457,500 tourists, a 21 percent rise from 2004, while a record 311,400 French travelers visited the country last year. Increases were also seen from the United Kingdom (156,700), Germany (105,200), Italy (73,000) and Spain (52,000).
A weaker showing of 50,784 travelers from Canada drew the attention of Eli Cohen, director general of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, who spent Feb. 22-25 promoting Israel among Jewish community leaders and travel industry professionals in Toronto.
‘Book’ to Israel
Well-read teens and 20-somethings taking a Taglit-birthright trip to Israel might want to consider “booking” their way through the country this year. The Jewish Book Council (JBC) in Israel has partnered with Mayanot to create an add-on to the typical birthright trips, which allows young visitors to meet with famous authors and journalists.
Columbia professor Ari Goldman, a former New York Times reporter, and publicist Shira Dicker will lead the groups. In the past, the JBC has met with such writers as Amos Oz, Naomi Ragen, Meir Shalev, David Horowitz, Michael Oren and Yossi Klein HaLevi.
The free 10-day birthright trips are open to young adults, 18 to 26, who have never been to Israel before. Register online at www.mayanotisrael.com/jbc, and use JBC as the referral code.
El Al Creates Christian Board
El Al has launched a Christian advisory board, which held its first meeting at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Dallas on Feb. 20. By partnering with such Christian figures as Kay Arthur, Jerry Falwell, John Hagee and Robert Schuller, the Israeli airline is hoping to improve its outreach to Christian pilgrims and encourage Christian groups to consider travel to the Holy Land.
“As soon as you board El Al, your Israel experience for you and your group begins at that moment,” said Arthur, who has been traveling to Israel for more than 30 years.
The Czech Republic has launched the “Year of Jewish Culture,” a nationwide yearlong project in celebration of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s 100th anniversary. Renowned as the most visited museum in the Czech Republic, the Jewish Museum in Prague explores the modern history of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from emancipation to the present.
The celebration will include theatrical and film events, as well as exhibits in conjunction with other museums and galleries. More than 80 institutions will participate in 70 nationwide events. For more information, visit www.jewishmuseum.cz.
Also celebrating a centennial this year is Finland. In 1906, the Helsinki Jewish community founded the country’s first synagogue, more than 11 years before Finland won independence and granted its Jewish citizens full civil rights. The Ashkenazi Orthodox shul and community center — one of two in a country that had the highest per-capita Diaspora participation during Israel’s War of Independence — is part of a Jewish heritage tour being led by local resident Andre Zweig. For more information, visit www.jewish-heritage-finland.com.
Rome Museum Gets Facelift
The snappy slogan of Rome’s new Jewish Museum says it all: “Ancient History, All New.” The museum, which reopened in December, is an expanded and updated version of the original Jewish museum, which was founded in 1959. The new museum, still located in the synagogue complex that towers above the Tiber River, now occupies a series of large, vaulted and climate-controlled halls in the basement.
The more than $2 million renovation was funded by the European Union, the Italian Culture Ministry, the Rome municipality and the province of Lazio, as well as private donors.
Each hall is devoted to a specific theme or time period, and the ritual objects, paintings, textiles and other items are arranged to illustrate them. No longer a static display of Judaica, the museum instead uses ritual objects, photographs, documents, family stories and other material to narrate the history, customs and traditions of Europe’s oldest continuous Jewish community.
“Many of the ritual objects that are exhibited will not remain closed forever in glass cases, but will be used on various occasions in our synagogue ceremonies,” said Rome Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni during the museum’s opening ceremony. — Ruth Ellen Gruber, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Cruise in Klezmer Style
Not getting enough Yiddishkayt on the traditional Jewish cruise? Consider booking early passage on the Klezmer Heritage Cruise, May 3-15, 2007. This floating concert will take passengers through the historic Ashkenazi homeland, featuring stops in Odessa, Zaporozhye, Sevastopol and Kiev as the MS Dnieper Princess traverses the Black Sea and the Dnieper River.
Organized in part with hip-hop klezmer performer MC SoCalled (né Josh Dolgin), the cruise will feature klezmer artists Michael Alpert, Susan Hoffman-Watts, Alex Kontorovich and Eric Stein; Yiddish dance expert Hél?ne Domergue-Zilberberg; and lectures on Ashkenazi culture, language and history by author Michael Wex and McGill University Jewish studies professor Eugene Orenstein.
Cabin prices range from $3,150 to $3,350. The ship will not offer a kosher kitchen, however pork and treif seafood will be removed from the menu. Side trips to villages and shtetls will be available for an additional fee and with advanced notice.
For more information, call (819) 827-2171 or visit www.magma.ca/~klezmercruise.