Ran Ronen, the Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, has mounted a campaign to encourage travel to Israel in the next few weeks and months, despite the threat posed by the Persian Gulf crisis.
Ronen outlined his reasons on Nov. 8 in an extraordinary letter sent to community leaders within the seven states under the consulate's purview.
"The crisis in the Persian Gulf, the threats of (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein, the violent attacks on residents of Israel and the one-sided condemnation of Israel by the United Nations are legitimate reasons for worry and distress," Ronen wrote.
"These factors have led to an alarming decrease in tourism. Our national airline, El-Al, is being forced to close several of its branch offices in the United States and Europe. Hotels in Israel are half empty, and most of them have begun to fire staff. The decline of tourism seriously harms the economy of Israel. . . .
"Canceling visits to Israel would provide the Arabs with the kind of victory they are seeking: the isolation of Israel. They would feel encouraged to continue perpetrating acts of violence and issuing threats, for they would have reason to believe that this would stop tourism to Israel entirely."
Asked last week whether the increased threat of war in the region had caused him to review his stance, Ronen replied: "When I talk to people, I say, 'I'm not going to tell you again the very old slogan that Israel is safer than 42nd Street in New York or downtown Los Angeles. I am not going to tell you that. What I'm telling you is that it's so important to show solidarity and support (for Israel).' "
Ronen said the letter and subsequent actions were done on his own initiative and are not part of a nationwide campaign.
"I reached a point where I felt we should stop talking so much and start doing something concrete," he said of his mobilization of Jewish leaders throughout the Western states and the increased emphasis on encouraging travel to Israel. Since his appeal, he said, about a dozen different groups are organizing tours to Israel "within the next two months." These tour groups range in size from a few dozen participants to several hundred, he said.
"They (visitors to Israel) shouldn't go to the West Bank, of course," he said, "but Tel Aviv (for example) is 600 miles from Baghdad."
Travel Quiz: What do N'Djamena, Roseau and Agana have in common?
Shipboard Blaze: A fire of unknown origin has caused significant damage to Royal Caribbean Cruises' Monarch of the Seas, a vessel under construction at Chantiers de L'Atlantique shipyard in San Nazaire, France.
The ship was to have been delivered in late April and would have commenced cruising sometime thereafter. Exactly how long a delay will result from the fire has not yet been determined. An investigation is under way into the cause of the blaze.
Quick Fact: The average depth of all the oceans in the world is 2.317 miles.
Christmas Train: In the Robb Report's annual list of extravagant gifts for the holiday season is the Napa Valley wine train.
Well, OK, not the entire train, but at least a luncheon or dinner party for up to 240 guests aboard the train during a three-hour journey through the wine country.
The cost? A mere $18,000, which covers the trip and the meal, including service by more than 40 stewards and stewardesses aboard the 1915-era Pullman coaches and lounge cars.
Of course, the $3-million pair of ruby slippers also listed in the Robb Report would be a more lasting gift.
Up in the Air: Talks are in progress between United States and Canadian aviation officials over the establishment of an "open skies" policy that would allow any U.S. or Canadian airline to operate any type of air service anywhere in either country.
U.S. airline officials already have voiced approval of of the plan. If approved by each government, the policy would permit U.S. carriers to operate on Canada's domestic routes without restriction, and vice versa.
The U.S.-Canada airline market handles 13 million passengers and generates $2 billion in revenue each year.
Quick Fact: The western entrance to the Panama Canal is actually 20 miles further east than the eastern entrance.
Blooming Britain: If certain roadsides in Great Britain appear to be colored with more than the usual number of wild flowers next spring, there's a good reason.
An innovative plan by British transportation officials has resulted in about 54 acres of shoulder, near road junctions and on slopes, being seeded with a mix of grasses and flowers suitable to the ecology of each region.
Slow Going: A remote coral atoll in the Indian Ocean that is home to the world's largest population of land tortoises will be opened to tourists, the Seychelles Islands government has ruled.
Aldabra, one of the world's largest coral atolls, lies about 550 miles south of the Seychelles Island capital of Victoria and is home to about 150,000 tortoises, as well as sea turtles and a large concentration of sea birds.
The atoll, with just 10 permanent residents, has until now been out of bounds for visitors other than scientists.
Conservationists said tourism would be carefully controlled, with visits probably limited to eight tourists at a time.
Quiz Answer: All three are national capitals of, respectively, Chad, Dominica and Guam.