Mt. of Olives Cemetery is almost full

Hasidic Jews at Mt of Olives grave, tb012603214

Hasidic Jews visit the Mount of Olives cemetery. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

According to reporter Rick Westhead, “For the past 3,000 years, Jewish families have been bringing their dead to the Mount of Olives cemetery.” The result of this historic connection to the Mount of Olives has not only been a lot of political and theological tensions, it has also pushed the plot of land to its limits. The cemetery over which most tourists get an overview of the Old City of Jerusalem is almost at capacity. Read the full article for some interesting facts and fables about this unique cemetery.

Israel will release new banknotes

Israeli notes that will be changed in 2013 and 2014.

Globes, a leading Israeli online business news site, reports that the Bank of Israel plans to begin releasing newly designed banknotes in mid-2013.

The new design, which includes a red 20 shekels note, a green 50 shekels note, an orange 100 shekels note, and a blue 200 shekels note, will have new portraits and improved security measures. Another change that is intended to assist the vision impaired is a variation in the size of each of the notes.

The first release (mid 2013) will include the 50 and 200 shekels notes, with the 20 and 100 shekels notes to follow in early 2014. There is no indication that coins will be redesigned.

Since most vendors accept US dollars, these changes should not have any serious impact on tourists.

News from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism

Here’s the latest from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

What’s happening where?

For some days rockets have been fired from the Palestinians’ Gaza Strip into southern Israel. A majority of the rockets have been brought down by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, but some have landed in towns and cities in a quite large area.

Is this where I’m going?

Probably not. Most of the areas the rockets have reached are off the usual tourist routes, but a few have been aimed towards Tel Aviv. Most of the rockets launched towards Tel Aviv were deflected by the Iron Dome. No tourists have been involved in any incidents.

How does all this affect my travel plans?

It probably doesn’t. Conditions in most of Israel are normal – with children going to school, people shopping, going to restaurants, going to the beach, and sightseeing.

Yes, but are people still going?

There are currently more than 100,000 tourists vacationing in Israel and there are no signs whatsoever that visitors are cutting their trips short. Individuals and groups continue to depart the U.S. and Canada for Israel without interruption.

But surely…

If you’re taking an organized tour, and should it be necessary, your tour operator will adjust your itinerary. If you’re traveling independently, hotels and tour guides are equipped to assist you and to suggest what you should and should not do, and where you should or should not go.  In addition to our www.goisrael.com, the website of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv israel.usembassy.gov gives up-to-date information for the benefit of Americans visiting our country

Yes, but…

As hard as it may seem to comprehend from thousands of miles away, the current situation has little effect on life in most of Israel.  2012 has already broken the record as the best-ever year for tourism to Israel, with more international travelers visiting Israel than ever before.  More than 80 airlines are operating their normal schedules to and from Israel, and today, as every day, close to 20 flights are operating nonstop between the United States and Canada and Israel, and vice versa.

Are you sure?

Tourists and tourism are very important to the State of Israel. If we felt it was inappropriate for you to come now, we would ask you not to.

If you’re already in Israel you are in good hands and know there’s nothing to be overly concerned about. And if you’re on your way: “Bon Voyage.” We look forward to greeting you.

UPDATED November 19, 2012

Source: http://tinyurl.com/chgat7z

The Gaza Conflict and Tourism to Israel

The current conflict between Israel and Gaza has negatively affected tourism in the Holy Land, but perhaps not as much as one might expect. Generally speaking, the conflict is isolated away from most tourist areas. However, the rockets into Tel Aviv and near Jerusalem do change the dynamic a bit.

Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s major daily newspapers has a nice article about the effect of the conflict on tourism.

Below are a few interesting paragraphs from the article (emphasis added), the rest of which can be read at the link above.

As fighting in the Gaza Strip entered its fifth day and Palestinian rockets landed deeper into Israel, travelers who had hoped to visit the Holy Land are starting to think twice.

But travel industry executives say there has not yet been a mass wave of cancellation.

A number of hotels in Israel, along with flagship airline El Al, have already seen some cancelations and believe the number will grow if the violence heads into a second week.

There are minimal cancelations at this moment, but obviously it is an evolving situation,” said a source in the Tourism Ministry, which has yet to offer official statistics.

Jerusalem Marathon 2013

The date for the 2013 Jerusalem Marathon is March 1, 2013. More information is available at the Jerusalem Marathon web page.