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East Germans Eye Israel for Tourism by

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With hard currency in their pockets for the first time, 16 million East Germans are able to vacation abroad, and at least one tour organizer has begun to promote Israel.

Scuba Reisen of Stuttgart organized the first inspection tour of Israel for East German journalists and tourism officials. Participants just returned from the weeklong junket, after visiting every part of the country, including Eilat.

A spokesman for the firm predicted many East Germans will want to visit Israel after years of official hostility toward the Jewish state.

The only problem is Israeli visa requirements for East Germans. Unlike West Germans, who do not need visas to enter Israel, East Germans must apply two to three weeks in advance.

Moreover, the application must be made at the Israeli Embassy in Bonn, because there is no Israeli diplomatic representation in East Germany.

According to informed sources in Jerusalem, Israel is considering abolishing visa requirements for East Germans.

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