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Tourism in Israel, and Quiet on the Gaza border (Arlene Kushner)

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Apr. 6, 2016

According to a Tourism Ministry official, last year saw no dip in tourism.  Uri Steinberg, the North American Israeli tourism commissioner, said that “2015 was the best year ever for tourism to Israel from North America and the first quarter of 2016 is up over 2015.”
Folks, if you haven’t visited Israel yet, you might think about scheduling a trip soon!
“[Ministry of Tourism Director-General Amir] Halevi also noted additional sources of growing tourism: China and India. In 2015, tourism from China to Israel grew 43 percent — to 50,000 visitors. The Tourism Ministry expects that number to double by 2018. Indian tourism rose 13 percent, with 40,000 tourists in 2015. The ministry foresees 80,000-100,000 Indian tourists visiting the country in 2018.”
A surprising and welcome turn of events, as well, near the border with Gaza, according to a JPost analysis:
”Once battered by Gazan rockets and shells, the southern border region is experiencing its quietest period in many years.

”Beneath the surface, the IDF is taking many steps, most of them covert, to prepare for any surprises Hamas may attempt to spring on the South. It appears as if these steps are contributing to the current calm, for now, by deterring Hamas from risking a massive Israeli response…

”On the civilian front, a blossoming is under way. The area has seen record numbers of new residents moving to villages and kibbutzim that were once considered war zones. Farmers work their lands right up to the Gaza border under the watchful eye of the IDF, and a recent festival in the area drew over 100,000 revelers…

”The IDF tries not to disrupt this normality with too heavy a presence, but it stealthily inserts its forces into areas that allow it to call upon speedy firepower in incidents.

”Nestled between trees in the birch forests of the area, Merkava tanks could lay in wait, out of view but not out of the minds of Hamas, which likely suspects their hidden presence, though not their precise locations. Further back, artillery lies ready to go into action at any time.

”On the border, Combat Intelligence units gather information 24 hours a day, feeding it to control centers. Radars and cameras feed the control rooms.

”The Northern Brigade maintains a large quantity of firepower at the ready, and often shifts them around to keep its cards close to its chest…

“The IDF remain on high, discreet alert, investigating every suspicious activity it detects, multiple times a day…”
How long this state of affairs will last is very difficult to predict, but it is certainly a blessing now.
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