JNF Wire: Gateway to the North Jewish National Fund's Western Galilee Tourist Information Center Opens its Doors
March 17, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
Gateway to the North – Jewish National Fund’s
Western Galilee Tourist Information Center Opens its Doors
By: Leiba Chaya David
Last week JNF-USA opened its new Western Galilee Tourist Information Center with
American donors, Israeli dignitaries and CEO Russell F. Robinson (fourth from left) in attendance.
Some 2.5 million tourists visit the city of Akko annually to experience the spectacular and enchanting historical sights this ancient port city has to offer. Most spend a few hours, at most a day, and then return to Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Jerusalem. And when they leave, so does the money they would have spent – on other sights, on tour guides, on local businesses, hotels, and restaurants.
As part of Jewish National Fund’s Go North initiative which seeks to strengthen the economy and social fabric of Northern Israel by drawing 300,000 new residents to the Galilee over the next decade and with tourism comprising 40% of the Galilee’s annual income, JNF and local partner organizations have sought ways to best market the region’s hidden gems and treasures and to encourage economic growth through tourism. Many visitors to the Galilee are unaware of the region’s rich cultural and artistic offerings, which includes quaint Druze villages known for their hospitality, boutique wineries, fantastic restaurants, artist colonies, and tour operators.
To address this issue and to promote the unique tourism opportunities available within an hour’s distance from Akko, JNF transformed a 150-year-old Ottoman-era building in the Old City of Akko into the new Jewish National Fund Western Galilee Tourism Information Center.
The 1,400-square-foot Center, situated in a quiet courtyard on Saladin Street amid a maze of arched alleyways and a bustling merchant bazaar, was established to encourage tourists to expand their experience beyond Akko and into the rest of the Galilee by showcasing handcrafted Galilean products and promoting unique tourist opportunities. The high-ceilinged, light-filled Center boasts comfortable seating, maps, brochures, several computer stations, and a group of well-trained staff to assist visitors as well as to point out places of interest.
On Tuesday, March 8, 2016 the JNF Western Galilee Tourist Information Center was officially dedicated with a ceremony and festive celebration. Guests were welcomed into an Ottoman-style bazaar for a reception featuring wine, beer, artisan cheeses, and other delicacies from throughout the Galilee. Many of the vendors featured at the grand reception are members of Western Galilee Now (WGN), a JNF-sponsored consortium of boutique winemakers, restauranteurs, artists, and tour guides that aims to promote the cultural diversity and history of the region.
WGN Director Michal Shiloah Gal-Nor, who worked tirelessly to develop the Center, expressed her pride and excitement about the project: “This is an amazing moment that represents three years of dedicated partnership with JNF. The Center will serve as a gateway into the Galilee and will showcase the small businesses and restaurants that don’t usually receive much coverage on typical itineraries. WGN is proud to be JNF’s voice in Israel.”
After the reception, guests made their way into the Center for the ribbon-cutting and mezuzah-affixing ceremony, which was followed by felicitations and greetings from government officials and JNF leaders. In attendance were the Mayor of Akko Shimon Lankri, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson, Ken Krupsky, chair of the Go North Task Force and JNF Vice President of the Galil, Tal Freiman representing Spirit of the Galilee, and KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Dr. Uzi Landau. Mayor Lankri thanked JNF for “choosing Akko as the site of this beautiful Center,” and expressed his hope that it will enable visitors to see Northern Israel in a new light. (In photo at right: Ken Krupsky, Michal Shiloah Gal-Nor, and Eric Michaelson - JNF Chief Israel Officer.)
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin added, “Our greatest challenge in tourism is to ensure that when tourists visit one place, they realize that there is more to do than initially thought. JNF’s Western Galilee Tourist Information Center changes the picture completely for the north, opening up possibilities to bring people to the many new places in the vicinity.”
The dignitaries were joined by dozens of JNF lay leaders who were in Israel for the $1 Billion Dollar Road Map Mission, and were amazed to see the end result of a project that has been in the works for years. The Center is a flagship project of the Go North initiative.
Marti Eisenberg, a San Diego resident and member of JNF’s Israel Relations Task Force, said, “JNF doesn’t pick sides when deciding where to invest long-term. It’s important to strengthen Akko and the entire Galilee region, and to highlight the multicultural character of the country. The work JNF has done in Be’er Sheva is world-class and has transformed the southern region into a high tech hub where global corporations have set down roots and hired thousands. Our strategy is similar here and I am confident that our work will change the region’s economy for the better.”
Robinson, JNF’s forward-thinking visionary, was greeted with resounding applause for his steadfast role in ensuring the project’s completion, summed up the purpose and beauty of the Center with a sweeping statement: “This is going to help strengthen the Galilee to such an extent that one day it will no longer be called the ‘periphery.’ The Negev, the center of the country, and the Galilee will simply be considered as part of one nation, Israel.” In photo at left: Russell F. Robinson, Dr. Uzi Landau - KKL-JNF Co-Chairman, Yariv Levin - Minister of Tourism, and Shimon Lankri - Mayor of Akko.
The JNF Western Galilee Tourist Information Center is open Sunday-Thursday from 9:00 am -5:00 pm, with special operating hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
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