TEL AVIV (Aug. 26)
The Persian Gulf crisis is having a negative impact not only on tourism to Israel, but also on the local cultural scene.
Hotel owners report some decline in the number of tourists arriving and booking ahead. They fear the degree of cancellations may increase if the uncertainty and threat of war continue into the winter season.
In public at least, the Tourism Ministry is painting a far more optimistic picture of the situation than leaders in the tourism industry itself. The ministry claims tourist arrivals are actually up compared to previous years.
But cancellations by a few celebrities from abroad have made a deep impression on the public at large.
The Soviet Union’s prestigious Red Army Chorus, which was due to arrive this week for a series of concerts, canceled at the last minute “because of the situation.”
The Kremlin apparently was concerned about the impression that would be created if a Red Army contingent arrived in Israel at a time of possible military confrontation in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the organizers of “Jazz on the Red Sea,” a jazz festival that opened Sunday night in Eilat, spent the weekend looking for substitutes for the American band Spyro Gyra, headed by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and American guitarist Barney Kessel.
To make matters worse, 78-year-old French violinist Stephane Grappelli pulled out at the last minute because of a sudden illness.
By Sunday morning, hours before the jazz festival opened, the organizers had managed to line up as replacements American saxophonist Wayne Shorter and drummer Elvin Jones.
The audience at the festival in Eilat will have a grandstand view of the Jordanian port of Aqaba, across the bay less than 10 miles away, where ships can be seen unloading cargo bound for Iraq or intercepted by U.S. and European naval vessels as they try to approach the Jordanian port.
The Gulf crisis has been a boon for hoteliers in Eilat, who are reporting almost complete bookings, thanks to the hundreds of foreign correspondents and television crews who have rushed to the town to be on hand for developments.