In a move that promises to drive down the price of airfares to Israel, the Israeli government has approved Israir's application to operate as a regularly scheduled designated airline between the United States and Israel, pitting it in direct competition with El Al Airlines.
Israir, which until now has operated as a charter service, said that beginning in June it would operate one flight a day to Israel, except on Shabbat. It is currently operating three flights a week.
Even as Israeli officials were basking in figures indicating that tourism to Israel this Passover would exceed last year's numbers by more than 20 percent, an Israeli newspaper investigation (along with this week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv) could damage future tourism.
Yediot Achronot reported that major resort hotels in Eilat and Tel Aviv routinely charge foreign tourists 80 percent more than Israelis. It quoted one hotel owner as saying that foreign tourist agencies had demanded surcharges that were passed along to travelers.
El Al Airlines added an additional flight from New York to Tel Aviv Thursday to help passengers left stranded Monday night when Tower Air unexpectedly halted all scheduled flights. The shutdown triggered an angry reaction among passengers flying from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv who were left standing in the rain at Kennedy Airport.
Irate Israeli passengers called the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan for help at 10 p.m. when they found the Tower Air terminal closed. The financially strapped airline had filed for bankruptcy protection just two months ago.
Izhar Shay travels between Israel and the United States so often (every two weeks) he has two cell phones. Rafi Epstein, who flies between the two countries each month or two for a week, used to have two business cards with his different addresses but found "two mail boxes and two fax numbers" too confusing.
Irving Gutman is back and forth to Israel so often from his Dix Hills, L.I., home (every two weeks) that he recognizes many of the El Al flight attendants.
At first, 15-year-old David Gokar of Brooklyn and his parents were hesitant about the prospect of him spending the next three years at a high school in Israel.
But after attending a presentation that stressed the high caliber of the education (as well as the 98 percent graduation rate among the 9,000 Jewish teens from 32 countries who had enrolled since the program started 12 years ago) David signed up and became one of the first six North Americans admitted to the Elite Academy program.
Israel wants YOU!
Israel's Ministry of Tourism is asking synagogues across the country to put pledge cards on every seat during High Holy Day services next month so that congregants can commit themselves to visiting Israel sometime in the next year. The ministry's goal: 1 million American Jewish tourists.
Jews and Evangelical Christians, Israel wants you, and will pay half a million bucks to make sure you come.
After seeing a 14 percent jump in tourism in April, the Ministry of Tourism is launching a $500,000 advertising blitz in media aimed at the two groups that have kept the industry barely alive with solidarity missions despite 32 months of violence.
Sallai Meridor, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the U.S., says those who predict a troubled relationship between the Obama administration and a likely Netanyahu government should “reserve judgment and learn from history.”