JNF'S Go North Initiative Takes Pressure Off Central Israel
Growth of Tourism to Create New Jobs & Housing for Those Priced out of Major Cities
September 23, 2014
Adam H. Brill
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND’S GO NORTH INITIATIVE
TAKES PRESSURE OFF CENTRAL ISRAEL
Growth of Tourism to Create New Jobs & Housing
for Those Priced out of Major Cities
By: Tzivia Jennifer MacLeod
Group picture of the Go North Western Galilee Tourism Conference participants.
Israel’s center is “imploding,” according to Jewish National Fund Chief Development Officer Rick Krosnick, but tourism to the north will take the pressure off.
While close to 80% of Israel’s area is located outside the center of the country, tourists typically spend only a few hours at most exploring beaches, museums, historical and natural sites beyond Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Krosnick said recently at the Go North Western Galilee Tourism Conference co-sponsored by JNF and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in Akko.
The challenge doesn’t just lie in bringing visitors to the region, but in convincing them to stay longer.
Since the Western Galilee is an easy drive from either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, tourists usually arrive in the early afternoon, stay a few hours – spending little or nothing in the region (bus tours often provide boxed lunches) – and then drive back.
Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri described his city’s development over the last 11 years: “Akko, the gateway to the Western Galilee, is transforming itself from a quick tourist stop into a destination,” he said. “Beyond a sense of history, a tourist-friendly city must offer great hotels, cafés and restaurants,” he added.
Amir Halevi, of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said, “Cultural events, such as the recent Opera Festival in Akko and Dance Festival in Karmiel, can act as magnets. But once tourists come, they must find quality, with municipalities and attractions promoting the entire north…as one big tourist site.”
Tour guide Amnon Gofer shared an overview of area attractions, from eco-tourism and camping to markets, boutique wineries and olive oil producers.
Identifying the region’s strengths and weaknesses at the conference was just the start for JNF, which will leverage its relationships to build partnerships, pooling resources and data to create a unified approach. “We know we can’t do it ourselves,” Krosnick said.
Myopically, travel businesses and organizations have so far focused narrowly on their own interests. That has to change in order to be successful.
“If you ran a shoe store on a quiet street,” asks Krosnick, “and then one day, someone else opened up a shoe store across the street. Do you say, ‘oy, oy, oy,’ because you’ve got competition, or do you work together to make it something big – ‘wow!’ – where everybody benefits?”
JNF CEO Russell Robinson said that JNF will support those willing to join in the cooperative effort, and work alongside local organizations and governments. “What we intend to do here is create a whole new economy, give young people a place to make a life with a good job, a great place to live, and a strong future. We have the full support of local governments here to develop the region for the benefit of all,” Robinson remarked.
Beyond tourism, the ultimate vision for the JNF Go North initiative is to bring 300,000 new residents – current Israelis and new olim – to live in the north within the next decade.
“The center is imploding… the average Israeli can’t afford to live there,” Krosnick said. Per square foot, an apartment in Tel Aviv costs more than an apartment in Manhattan. Tourism will create new and better employment opportunities outside of the center.
“For the health and well-being of Israel,” Krosnick said, “we have to get the population to the north and the south. Local pride is an important first step. Despite the region’s significant landscape and historical features, people here say they’re living in the ‘periphery.’”
One local participant grew up in the center but spent so much time hiking in the north that it was easy to move there as an adult. She bragged of the region’s Crusader landmarks, “People go to Malta to see a fraction of what we have here. There is so much opportunity waiting to be created.”
JNF’s Go North program mirrors the Blueprint Negev initiative in the south, which to date has brought 110,000 new residents to Be’er Sheva and the Negev – part of a plan to settle 500,000 in the coming decade.
“Our passion is to improve the quality of life for the people of Israel,” said Krosnick. “This is our country, too.”
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.