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Effort Launched to Increase U.S. Tourism to Israel to Boost That Nation’s Beleaguered Economy

Officials and representatives of leading hotel, airline and tourism groups met with prominent Jewish business leaders for two hours here today in an effort to devise new methods to increase American tourism to Israel to boost Israel’s beleaguered economy.

Max Fisher of Detroit told reporters after the private meeting that tourism is the second fastest growing international industry, second only to the petroleum industry. He also said that Israel’s tourist facilities are currently being used — even with tourism growing — at only about half their capacity.

The meeting today was under the auspices of the tourism committee of Operation Independence, a group formed officially last February and consisting of a task force of some 100 international Jewish business leaders seeking to help strengthen Israel’s economy. Fisher is chairman of Operation Independence, and of the tourism committee.

While he did not reveal details of the meeting, Fisher announced that Operation Independence has received a commitment from national rabbinical and congregational leadership of the major branches of Judaism for rabbis in some 2,500 synagogues in the United States and Canada to announce a new program to expand Jewish tourism to Israel.

At High Holy Day services beginning Sunday, September 15, leaders of synagogues will call on their members to form at least one minyan — or quorum of 10 — that will visit Israel during the next Jewish year. “We are confident that this will give rise to a positive — indeed, enthusiastic response — resulting in tens of thousands of additional visitors to Israel,” Fisher asserted.

A 10-YEAR PROJECT

Fisher, an industrialist and long time activist within the American Jewish community — he was founding chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency — told reporters at the Harmonie Club that Operation Independence is a 10-year-project that will deal with other economic issues such as exports from Israel.

“Israel within the next decade has to establish its economic independence, and not depend on handouts” from the U.S., Fisher said. Israel is provided with some $4 billion a year in economic and military aid from the United States.

Fisher said the goal of the tourism effort is to increase the number of visitors to Israel by some 500,000 after five years. It was noted today that more citizens of West Germany visit Israel than American Jews on a yearly basis.

Operation Independence leaders will hold their first plenary meeting in Jerusalem September 10 to 13. Premier Shimon Peres has said Operation Independence has assumed “critical importance” in Israel’s efforts to arrest inflation and stabilize its trade deficit. He will address the plenary meeting.

In Jerusalem, the task force will be divided into eight working groups, each dealing with a specific field of business activity. They are: exports of consumer goods to the U.S.; exports of industrial goods to the U.S.; tourism; capital investment; trade with Europe and Africa; sale of government-owned companies; special projects; and legislation.

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