JERUSALEM (Apr. 13)
On the eve of the Passover and Easter holidays, Israel is in the midst of a tourist boom that promises to be the best in years. The Ministry of Tourism announced that tourist arrivals so far are running 40 percent ahead of the corresponding period last year. Visitors from abroad are arriving by the plane-load day and night. Hotels, kibbutz guest houses, youth hostels and other resorts were reported booked solid and there are long waiting lists at Israel’s posher hotels.
The tourists arriving here find few signs of the economic austerity and low morale they may have read about. Israel’s economic crisis seems to have vanished, at least for the duration of the holidays. The tourists, in fact, must compete with the natives for hotel space as an unusually high percentage of Israelis have decided to spend this Passover at a resort and obviously they have the cash to do it.
Evidence of big spending by locals and visitors alike is seen in the Jammed supermarkets, department stores, boutiques and other retail outlets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and other towns. And everywhere there are the ubiquitous American tourists with their cameras, guide books and maps. That alone is a morale booster.
The weather is tricky–rainy and cold one day, sunny and hot the next. Today the hamsin, the dry desert wind, blew over Israel, a bit prematurely since the hamsin does not usually blow until May. It might very well rain tomorrow or the next day for summer is still some weeks away. But nobody is concerned with the weather. The general atmosphere is one of contentment and brisk activity.
As tourists land with their excess baggage, the Jerusalem Spring Festival is underway. The Jerusalem Theater performs a different play every night. Movie houses have brought in the biggest “hits” of the year, mostly from the U.S. The blockbuster “Jaws” has been playing for weeks to packed houses. Israelis are also lining up to see “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Sunshine Boys” and the Oscar-winner, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Even Lisa Minelli’s “Lucky Lady” which got dreadful reviews in the U.S. is packing them in here and getting big laughs.