Twenty-five years ago, when Nancy Broth started her business, she signed a contract with El Al and helped people book their flights abroad. Today, Broth—owner of Caves Travel in Pikesville, Md.—works with multiple airlines, dozens of Israeli hotels, and a group of touring companies and guides. She says traveling to Israel has become not just for Jews, but an alluring vacation for people of all ages, sexual orientations, and creeds.
“It’s the Old City of Jerusalem, Masada, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea,” says Broth, naming some of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel. “More seasoned people like to go to the Galilee, to Eilat, to visit Petra (the ancient city in Jordan). They go to the spa and the wineries—they all love the wineries.”
“Israel is the only place in the world where students, women, and kids can go by themselves to swim in the Tel Aviv beach at sunset, bike through the mountains, or jog through one of the central parks,” echoes Amir Halevi, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. “There is no other place where there is so much to do and people can feel safe doing it.”
Halevi tells JNS.org that he has seen a steady rise in people from all over the world traveling to Israel, even during times of heightened security concerns such as the current wave of terror—and despite the high travel costs. Hotel prices in Israel have increased by 70 percent over the last decade. Broth points out that even with alternatives to El Al, such as Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines, taking a plane halfway around the world is expensive.
Enter Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who is trying to make Israel travel more affordable. In late February, Levin presented a bill designed to reduce the cost of vacationing in Israel by 20 percent over five years. The bill passed its first Israeli Knesset reading, and Halevi says it is expected to come up for second and third readings within the next few weeks and hopefully pass.