We definitely need a palate cleanser after the week that was, so here is my latest Good News Friday installment.
All the attempts at delegitimizing and demonizing Israel have obviously been a crashing failure, since Israel welcomed its 3 millionth tourist this year! – a staggering statistic considering Israel’s entire population is 8 million:
Earlier today, Tuesday, Israel’s three millionth tourist this year landed in Israel, a new all-time record for incoming tourism in Israel. Ioana Isac from Romania is accompanied by her partner, Mihai Georgescu, tourist number 3,000,001.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin welcomed the couple in the arrival hall in Ben Gurion airport: “This is a special day and an historic milestone as we break the 3-million-tourist barrier and set a new all-time record. We are set to end the year with an amazing achievement, the likes of which have never been reached since the establishment of the State. I am excited to welcome the 3 millionth tourist today and I am happy with the achievements that we in the Tourism Ministry are seeing, as a result of the huge investment that we are making in marketing Israel around the world and our exceptional collaborations with airlines and the connections that we maintain and strengthen with tour operators. All these are bearing fruit and have added about 17 billion shekels and thousands of jobs to the local economy.”
The minister welcomed Ioana Isac in a festive ceremony at the airport, complete with red carpet, balloons and flowers and presented Ioana with a certificate to mark the occasion. Tourism Minister Levin and Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi accompanied the excited couple to their awaiting limousine, as they set off for a dream holiday experience with several options prepared by the Tourism Ministry.
During their vacation, they will enjoy an upgrade to a pampering hotel suite, a ride in a limousine, a helicopter tour in the skies of Israel, a unique Dead Sea experience, a sunset tour of the Tel Aviv promenade and a private dinner prepared by Israeli chef Nir Tzuk in his home.
It wasn’t only the Tourism Minister who welcomed the lucky couple. The Prime Minister himself made a surprise appearance to welcome them and give them a guided tour. 🙂
Kol hakavod to Minister Yariv Levin and the Tourism Ministry on their success in promoting Israel abroad; kol hakavod to Bibi on his nice PR stunt, and welcome to the Isac couple, and to all the other millions of tourists to Israel. May you have a wonderful, exciting, relaxing and fun stay!
Some visitors of a rather different kind could be seen in Israel’s skies this week: Israel hosted 8 nations in the largest ever Air Force exercise:
JNS.org – The Israeli Air Force this week launched the largest and most complex aerial exercise in the Jewish state’s history, involving combat pilots and support crews from the US, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India, Italy and an unidentified eighth country.
The drill, dubbed “Blue Flag,” is a biennial event that was originally launched in 2013. This year’s exercise, the third of its kind, involves more than 1,000 participants.
The IDF stated that the exercise aims to advance “diplomatic cooperation between the countries” as well as to improve participants’ planning, targeting, and coordinated command and control abilities in high-threat theaters.
The military also emphasized that the drill is not connected to any specific ongoing security threat.
The involvement of France, Germany, India and Italy in this year’s exercise is the most significant change to the Blue Flag program since its inception. Since 2015, the drill has included Israel, the US, Greece and Poland.
Ynet provides more details about the Blue Flag exercise:
Close to 100 aircraft and more than a thousand support crew and pilots from seven different air forces will take part in the 11-day drill taking place in IAF’s Ovda Base north of Eilat, while officers and attaches from nearly 40 other countries are expected to attend the exercise which the Israel Air Force has described as aiming to “simulate extreme combat scenarios and coalition flights as realistically as possible.”
Dr. Eran Lerman of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that the exercise shows the importance and quality of the IAF and exposes it to the methods of other air forces, but added that its strategic importance was first and foremost in the symbolic participation of pilots from several countries with whom strategic, diplomatic and security relations are getting stronger and stronger.
Lt. Col. Guy, Head of the IAF’s Training Branch, said that besides the tactical advantage gained by training with hundreds of international aircrew members, aircraft and weapon systems, the IAF will also gain a strategic advantage.
“The IAF has two main goals in the exercise,” he said, “the first is to improve the operational readiness of all air forces involved via a quality mutual training experience, while also creating fertile ground for mutual learning. The second is to show the world that the IAF is an advanced, strong and leading force and improve Israel’s international status as a result.”
ndia, which is participating in a military exercise in Israel exercise for the first time on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit, dispatched a C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft, along with a 45-member contingent, including Garud commandos.
“This is the first time the Indian Air Force is training with the Israeli Air Force in a multilateral exercise setting,” the Indian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “Exercise Blue Flag gives us the opportunity to share and learn best practices with some of the best professionals from other air forces.”
This is excellent news both for Israel and for all the participating countries, as they get to learn and benefit from each other’s experience. May the exercise be successful and may this international cooperation continue to grow.
And on the same theme of “Israel is not isolated”, we were privileged to enjoy several celebrities in recent days.
1980s icon Boy George also gave a great concert to thousands of enthusiastic fans in Tel Aviv, while rebuffing anti-Israel critics who protested his visit to Israel:
Whenever I go to Israel, people always say don’t go there, don’t go there. ‘F–k off, I go where I want!” legendary rocker Boy George told the audience as he and his band Culture Club performed in Tel Aviv, The Algemeiner reported Wednesday.
After more than 30 years, Boy George and his band came back to Israel and spent part of the show dressed in an outfit covered with Jewish stars. In addition to three bandmates, Boy George performed Karma Chameleon, one of the band’s signature hits, with Israeli singing star Dana International.
Over the course of the concert, Boy George referred to attempts by members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) to dissuade him from playing in Israel, saying, that he’d taken “abuse” for his stand, and acknowledged that one band member refused to accompany him to Israel. But, he said, “I love it here and it’s always a pleasure to be here!” He added, “There is such a mad vibe in this country.”
Thank you Boy George for your warm words of support! Welcome to Israel and come back again soon!
He was not the only celebrity who has performed in Israel this year:
The famed English band Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv in July despite a very public campaign headed by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters to discourage them from performing in Israel. In an interview a month earlier, Radiohead’s outspoken lead singer, Thom Yorke had dismissed the calls for the band to boycott Israel as “offensive” and “patronizing in the extreme.”
In another blow to BDS, the legendary American rock band Guns N’ Roses finished their world tour a week earlier in Tel Aviv.
Let no one tell you that BDS is successful. It is an utter failure!
Meanwhile, another famous singer has also weighed in with words of support for Israel: Morrissey accused the Israel-haters of being jealous of Israel:
Pop icon Morrissey has accused those who “rain abuse” on Israel of doing so because they are “jealous” of the country.
In the lyrics of his new song entitled Israel the former Smiths frontman also accuses unnamed enemies of wanting to instil their own “dark sky” on the Jewish state.
The near six-minute long pro-Zionist ballad is the closing track on Morrissey’s new album Low In High School.
In typically hard-hitting fashion, the singer, who has regularly performed concerts in Tel Aviv, sings: “In other climes they bitch and wine/Just because you are not like them – Israel, Israel”.
Referencing Israel’s critics, he adds: “And they who reign abuse upon you – they are jealous of you as well”.
Israel is not the only track in which Morrissey deals with Jewish-related themes on the new album.
On a song called The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel, the star pays homage to the theatrical production of the same name based on the diaries of Etty Hillesum, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.
Morrissey’s positive stance on Israel stretches back over a decade –he once appeared on stage in Tel Aviv draped in an Israeli flag.
What an amazing man! Kol hakavod to Morrissey. As Israellycool says, I can’t wait to hear these songs!
And one more celebrity before we go, American actor Will Smith was spotted in Israel – at the Kotel of all places! Israellycool brings us pictures and posts:
He even got time to pray:
We can be proud of our wonderful country that so many celebrities want to visit, even if they have been in Jordan and want to “pop in because they are in the neighbourhood” as Will Smith did.
With these happy thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!