Mixed Effect On Tourism


After a harrowing vacation in Belize in February — during which they huddled in a room for three hours to escape gunmen who had taken over the hotel next door and robbed the guests — Lori and Larry Spiegel of Huntington, L.I., were looking forward to a relaxing trip to Israel next month to celebrate their son’s bar mitzvah. But the war in Israel has changed all that.

“We’re now thinking of going in December,” said Lori Spiegel. “We want to see as much of the country as we can and we don’t want to be in a smaller, contained area” in the south if Hezbollah is still firing missiles into the north of Israel.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Government Tourist Office, Ruthie Mekel, said she understood that “there have been no mass cancellations” but that Americans who planned to travel to Israel in coming weeks were considering delaying their trips if the violence continued.

Although there have been no reports of a large number of Americans leaving, El Al added an extra flight from Tel Aviv to New York Tuesday to accommodate more than 250 Americans who wanted to leave early.

El Al said it was going ahead with plans to start next week non-stop service from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. So far, El Al said it has received few cancellations.

Members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations plan to make a solidarity trip to Israel Sunday.

“The impact of the missile attacks is not just military, economic or political, but also psychological,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman. “By visiting communities in Israel’s north and south that have been targeted by the barrage of missiles, we will bring our message of unity and concern directly to the people.”

Meanwhile Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that facilitates the mass immigration of North American Jews to Israel, sent 240 North American Jews to Israel Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the group said it would be sending more than 3,000 North American Jews to Israel this year.

Jewish federation leaders also have their own solidarity mission leaving Saturday night. And the Israeli Tourist Office said other missions were being put together by the Reform movement and Chabad.Israir is offering $300 one-way fares to Israel on selected flights. Larry Ritter of Israel Tour Connection of Livingston, N.J., said he has 1,300 people booked on his tours between now and the end of August and that “everybody is waiting to see what happens.” One synagogue group that was expected to go soon decided to delay the trip until Feb. But Ritter said he has three groups organized by Chabad that “said they were going no matter what.”