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Jerusalem: seeking tourism amid corruption

April 22nd, 2010 by Blake Bromley, Bio

Jerusalem is looking to become more than a religious pilgrim’s destination, but that might be a tall order. I’ve been in meetings with the Jerusalem Tourism Manager as well as the founder of Jerusalem.com, who have told me that the city has three million tourist visits a year and wants to increase the number to ten million in ten years.

It’s possible, if done right, to increase tourism. But it’s hard to convince more than a very determined visitor to go to any area where there’s danger or corruption, regardless of the reality or benefits.

I was there because they sought my help with a charity project, which could contribute significantly to enhancing people’s understanding of the world religions linked with Jerusalem. It will create a three dimensional virtual Jerusalem, in which people of different denominations will have the opportunity to describe the Holy City in the tradition, theology and eschatology of their own faith. This will provide a superb basis for a comparative study of the great religions which claim Abraham as a patriarch and which have a geographic focus on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem wants to attract more than just religious tourists. The city is now looking to rebrand itself. Officials recognize that religion draws people to the city, but to increase tourism they want to frame themselves as a cultural travel experience. But that might prove to difficult to include in this project. We overcame this hurdle, agreeing that the City’s objective is best served by continuing to focus on our world religions project, and then letting the City build upon our success to achieve its own cultural tourism goals. The final meeting was with the Mayor of Jerusalem who offered us every cooperation he could.

Some hurdles, however, could prove too high. Jerusalem may be focusing on transformation, but the revelation of deep-seated corruption clouds the optimism. The day was efficient and business-like but carried on against the traumatized backdrop of the previous mayor, Uri Lupolianski, being arrested for corruption. Last week his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who went on to become Prime Minister of Israel, was called in for questioning on the same corruption issue. The tensions in City Hall were very high, and I was grateful that none of my meetings were cancelled.

At one level, Jerusalem is holy city considered sacred by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The view from the top floor of city hall is fabulous as you can see the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

On another level Jerusalem is just another piece of urban real estate where wealthy entrepreneurs vie for development permits so they can make profits. Sadly, even in this holy place, and not unlike cities in other parts of the world, Jerusalem apparently had civic officials who were willing to take bribes to expand the allowable development.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard people promote and celebrate Jerusalem’s long history of religious importance, these efforts are overshadowed at the moment by blatant corruption.

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Categories: Charity, Politics, Religion, Strategy

One Response to “Jerusalem: seeking tourism amid corruption”

  1. Daniel Wintschel Says:

    I hope they can pull it off. I’ve never been anywhere else in the world where people have been less friendly. And as for people trying to scam you goes – even throughout Southeast Asia I never felt that people tried to take advantage of me as much as in Jerusalem.

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