Jerusalem mayor visits L.A. to promote his city and court film producers

Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, spent part of his recent visit to Los Angeles trying to sell entertainment industry moguls on the virtues of filming in Jerusalem.

A former tech entrepreneur who Newsweek once compared to Batman’s millionaire alter ego, Bruce Wayne, Barkat said that getting producers to shoot films in Jerusalem is a top priority.

The city, already millennia old, has recently developed services to cater to film producers, and Barkat is in the process of lobbying Israel’s national government to institute tax breaks to help Jerusalem compete against other cities.

Getting films made in and about Jerusalem, Barkat said in an interview on May 7, “is the best positioning for the city that deserves better positioning than what you see on the news.”

Attracting filmmakers to Jerusalem could also help Barkat make good on a campaign pledge to increase the number of tourists who visit the city each year from just over 2 million when he took office, to 10 million. For the last two years, Jerusalem has welcomed about 3.5 million tourists each year.

“The culture feeds tourism and is fed from it,” Barkat said, “and film production fits right in.”

Barkat, who plans to run for re-election when his first term ends in 2013, mentioned having met the outgoing Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a few times. At one of their meetings, the mayors shared notes on crime. Barkat recalled Villaraigosa telling him that in 2010, Los Angeles, a city of 3.8 million, reported 297 murders.

In Jerusalem, a city of about 800,000, Barkat said, the number of murders that year was nine, a rate about one-seventh that of Los Angeles’. In 2011, Jerusalem saw only five murders. The statistics, Barkat was quick to point out, included both killings classified as crimes and deaths resulting from terror.

“So,” Barkat said, smiling, “how safe is Jerusalem relative to Los Angeles?”