jerusalem cemetery 88.
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Holiday vacation packages come in a variety of sizes, designed for travel agents like me to sell to tourists. Tourists purchasing these packages appear in assorted shapes. Their interests, personalities, and spending habits vary accordingly. Generally, they are a lively, colorful, bunch.
Pre-intifada, they were avid customers buying trinkets and gifts in local shops, riding buses, enjoying hotels and dining in restaurants.
Jewish tourists who visited for five to ten tour-packed days would relate how delighted they were to visit our beautiful country, and their pride in Israel and its soldiers.
When asked if they would ever consider living in Israel, they answered, "I would love to, but you know - the wife - or - the children - or - the business - or - the mother-in-law won't allow it. Maybe, someday after the kids are married."
Ageing tourists no longer purchase holiday packages. Their interests lie elsewhere.
It started with my friend Joe. He phoned my office during one of his brief visits to make an appointment to see me.
"I need to discuss a grave situation," he said. I figured his airline ticket had expired and required an extension. Secretly, I hoped he wanted to fly down to Eilat for a few days. I was anxious to sell him a pricy three-day package combining flights, hotel and tours.
"Listen Joe," I told him eagerly, "the office is open every day until five and I'll be happy to sell you a round-trip fare to any destination of your choice."
But the "grave situation" my friend wanted to discuss had nothing to do with flying - he was worried about remaining in one place. It was not about a reservation. He was looking for relocation. Joe owned a burial plot in the Holon cemetery and he wanted it exchanged for one in Jerusalem.
It's no wonder tourism is dead and the industry is resting in peace.
My cousin Harry, a cut-throat businessman, loves Israel - from a distance. He visits once a year, and is one of those devoted tourists who will never live or let anyone else live in this country.
"You can't make a buck in Israel," he laments. "They bury you alive."
Harry makes money wherever he goes. Once, after paying a condolence call to his neighbors, he phoned me.
"Listen here Flo, I want to buy plots in Israel. It's gotta be cheaper if you buy them before cashing in the chips. My neighbor Mel passed away last week and they flew him to Israel. They really took him for a ride. His widow plunked down a bloody fortune." Harry concluded that if he bought plots in advance, he could die all expenses paid, and the plots should be cheaper by the dozen.
He felt strongly that a family that lived and studied together should be buried together. What's more, a family compound in the cemetery would enable family members to pay respects to all the relatives in one calling.
I contacted the burial society to inquire about bargains for Harry and the family. I tried to convince our relatives Ed and Sue to join, but Ed insisted that since we didn't get along face to face, we'd never get along side by side.
"After 120 years, Ed, there's no seeing, no hearing, no touching, so there's no problem."
But Ed could not be convinced.
After he passed away, his son arranged for a plot in a prominent section of the cemetery at no charge.
Afterwards, Sue decided she wanted be buried next to Ed, and that's when the society made its killing. She paid three times more than those who had joined Harry's family plan.
Harry phoned again last week to tell us his daughter is engaged to be married, and he needs help arranging the wedding in Israel.
"Why do you want a wedding in Israel, Harry? This is a place you visit either as a tourist, or in a box."
Harry thought I was being facetious.
"Seriously Flo, let's be honest, the kids are studying in Israel, my mom is there, and the groom's parents have a large family in Israel. Rather than bring them to the States, I figure it's cheaper for us to go to Israel," he explains. "Besides, even a drop-dead wedding in Israel is less expensive than a lively affair in New York."
"Aren't you worried Harry? Your kids might decide to remain in Israel after they finish school, and then you'll have to buy them an apartment?"
"Don't worry Flo, my kids know better than that. They recognize the velvet cushions lining their pockets."
"How come you're so sure Harry?"
"Well, my kids all know what's written in my will."
"And what's that?"
"If anyone ever moves to Israel against my will, the only thing they inherit is a plot!"
"A plot!" he yells.