Destination: Israel

Promo Videos Gone Wrong: No Wonder Israel Didn’t Make the World Cup?

Here’s a pet peeve: when products that I would otherwise enjoy launch advertising campaigns that are so overwhelmingly gendered, there’s no doubt that the company in question has no interest in me, my matching X chromosomes—or my money. (See: beer ads, professional sports promos, and a certain outdoors-oriented travel magazine.)

Why, you might ask, would the brightest advertising minds deliberately cut 50 percent of the world’s population out of their calculations, by doing the marketing equivalent of hanging up a “No Girls Allowed” sign? I’m still figuring out an answer to that one. In the meantime, check out this Israeli tourism spot, and tell me this isn’t the beer ad of travel promos:

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More Bad News for the Dead Sea?

More Bad News for the Dead Sea? Photo by amanderson2 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Because of a marked decrease in water inflow from the Jordan River, the famous salt lake is shrinking so fast that some scientists believe that it could dry up in 50 years. But politics could also displace it from the list of the world’s top natural wonders, Reuters reports. The countries bordering the sea—Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan—must sign off for the Dead Sea to qualify for votes in 2010-2011 at the New Seven Wonders of Nature competition.


Where We’re Eating: Tel Aviv, Minneapolis, New York City

Find yourself in Tel Aviv, Minneapolis, or the Big Apple and not sure where to eat? Try these restaurants:

Montefiore, Tel Aviv
Set in a restored 1930s building (on the ground floor of the hip new boutique hotel of the same name), this Tel Aviv eatery infuses Mediterranean ingredients with Vietnamese dishes to mouthwatering success. The consome with silky foie gras ravioli is a must.

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Is the Dead Sea Ailing?

Is the Dead Sea Ailing? Photo by Mark Cartwright via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Mark Cartwright via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Water levels have been dropping dramatically at the giant salt lake in the last 30 years, risking the viability of the thousands-year-old tourist attraction and Biblical landmark, Science Daily reports.

Researchers at the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, discovered that the lake has lost 14 cubic kilometers of water in the last 30 years, an alarming drop which could translate into problems such as receding shorelines that could make it difficult for tourists to access the waters and the formation of a dangerous landscape of sinkholes and mud that could also damage roads.

The high-mineral concentration in the Dead Sea—the lowest body of water on Earth, at 400 meters below sea level—has attracted health tourists for thousands of years, apparently intriguing the likes of Aristotle, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba. Modern doctors also tell their patients that soaking in the Dead Sea can ease skin ailments. Today, the area is bustling with resorts, spas, restaurants and hotels.

The scientists say climate change hasn’t caused the drop; rather, it’s a result of spiking human water use in the area.


The Hummus War: Lebanon Takes on Israel

Fadi Abboud of the Lebanese Industrialists Association says the popular chickpea dip as well as dishes such as falafel, baba ghannouj and tabbouleh belong to Lebanon, not Israel. So his organization is planning to sue the Israelis for food copyright infringement, modeling their case after Greece’s successful branding of feta cheese. Will it work?

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Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital

Photo of Dead Sea caves by LollyKnit via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A team of expert preservationists is hard at work in Jerusalem this week, aiming to make the Dead Sea Scrolls—all 15,000 fragments of them—available online as digital images. “The project began as a conservation necessity,” one interviewee told the New York Times. “We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process ... We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”

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Israel’s (Underground) Pitch to Gay Travelers

Gay tourism to Israel has spiked in recent years, spurred in part by the country’s reputation for open-mindedness: gays can serve openly in the military and even register as married couples. While Israel welcomes expansion of its tourism market, the trend also presents tourism officials with a tricky balancing act.

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Windsurfing in Jesus’s Footsteps

World Hum columnist Rolf Potts recalls shredding the Sea of Galilee. Also in Forbes.com’ special section on water, World Hum contributor Jason Anthony explores Antarctica’s ice, and Elisabeth Eaves argues that sharks have more to fear from people than people have to fear from sharks. “Forty-four separate species of sharks and skates—among sharks’ closest evolutionary relative—are either endangered or critically endangered,” she writes.


Checkpoint Travel 101 in Israel

I’ve had an eye-opening tutorial in travel through military checkpoints in the West Bank this month, getting turned away at one for not having the proper documentation, then getting barked at by Israeli soldiers at various others. I came across this surreal sign posted by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism at the checkpoint near Bethlehem. The checkpoint is covered with barbed wire and feels like an armed camp.

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The Call to Prayer: ‘An Audible Pinprick to Your Conscience’

I know it’s a cliché for visitors to the Middle East, but the call to prayer has totally seduced me during my two weeks in Jerusalem. At different spots across the city, I’ve been amazed at how the wailing notes can vary depending on the muezzin. At the mosque near my hotel, the muezzin strikes a somber tone, voice cracking on the high notes, while others I’ve heard in the West Bank sound more like trilling songbirds, drawing out “Allahhhh” for all it’s worth.

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David Plotz Digs the Bible

Slate’s deputy editor spent last year blogging the Bible, and he followed up with a trip to Israel “to experience the Bible through archaeology, history, politics, and faith.” Plotz’s chronicle of his journey got off to a promising start today as the latest installment of Slate’s excellent Well-Traveled series.


A Christmas Story From ‘One of the Most Contentious Places on Earth’

For many, the little town of Bethlehem evokes a Technicolor Christmas image of a dainty village with baby Jesus in a manger, his glowing parents and wise men bearing gifts. But visitors experience a very different Bethlehem—one crippled with poverty, suicide bombers and menacing military division, and divided by a giant security wall. As Michael Finkel writes in a fascinating article in this month’s National Geographic, Bethlehem is one of the most contentious places on earth.

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Women’s Travel Email Roundtable, Part One: ‘He My HUSBAND!’

Four accomplished travelers -- Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Liz Sinclair, Terry Ward and Catherine Watson -- talk about the rewards and perils of hitting the road alone as a woman

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Holy Sites or Hot Babes? Israel’s Tourism Controversy Rages On.*

We thought the Maxim photo-shoot controversy we wrote about in April was all over. We figured the whole question of whether Israel should promote tourism by inviting Maxim magazine to photograph babes in bikinis in Tel Aviv—or just stick to a more traditional campaign focusing on Holy Land sites—was finally chalked up to one of those great unanswerable questions, not unlike, say, Jon Stewart’s recent question to “A Mighty Heart” star Angelina Jolie about whether the burka she wore in Pakistan was capable of containing all of her hotness. Some questions are simply too profound for answers. But the Maxim controversy rages on.

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Selling Israel: A Land Rich in Holy Sites or Hot Babes in Tel Aviv?

Photo by falasteenyia, via Flickr (Creative Commons).

That’s the question vexing those debating how to market the nation to tourists. Interestingly, an Israeli consular official recently invited a camera crew from Maxim magazine to photograph a bikini-clad model in Tel Aviv, arguing that the best way to improve the country’s image among young men was with “good-looking women,” the official told Newsweek. Others insist that Biblical sites set Israel apart and should be emphasized. Which raises the question: Can you sell Holy sites to would-be religious tourists and secular good times to Maxim readers at the same time?

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