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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Following a highly publicized near-collision earlier this month at Ben-Gurion Airport, officials of the Israel Airports Authority announced last week the activation of a new system for preventing similar incidents in the future. Following a series of recent tests, the IAA will put into use the Critical Area Management System, a new program designed to detect and notify control tower workers about all vehicles, aircraft and other objects on the airport runway.
The implementation of the new system, scheduled for the end of October, comes not long after the latest headline-making near-miss at Ben-Gurion, in which an Italian charter plane idled on the runway directly in the path of an Israir jet preparing to land. The near-collision, which took place earlier this month, was narrowly averted when an El Al pilot spotted the Italian carrier and notified the airport control tower, which in turn was able to head off a collision between the two planes.
The new monitoring system, which operates with optical sensors and radar technology, will initially be used to supervise one of Ben-Gurion's landing strips. Its use can potentially be expanded at a later date to cover a wider area.
The IAA also announced last week that its leadership would be holding meetings with representatives of Ben-Gurion's air traffic controllers, who complained after the most recent near-miss that they were being unfairly blamed for wider systemic problems at the airport.
In a statement, the IAA described the meetings and new monitoring system as part of its response to recommendations recently issued by investigators of the US Federal Aviation Administration.
A full report on the FAA investigation of Ben-Gurion is expected to be released by the end of the year, with the IAA pledging to implement "all the recommendations" it contains.
The government allocated an NIS 550 million budget in September to upgrade safety and security infrastructure at Ben-Gurion and the country's other border crossings over the next three years.
Japanese delegation pushes Peresfor Tokyo-Tel Aviv flights
Foreign delegations come to Israel all the time, and for all sorts of reasons: the country's religious sites, various diplomatic initiatives and sometimes just for the country's natural beauty.
A Japanese group touring Israel last week arrived for a rather more novel reason: to learn about its seaweed.
Famously lacking in the Middle East's most famous natural resource - oil - Israel has attracted attention in some quarters for a less geopolitically significant asset, the seaweed that grows in the waters off Eilat. Japanese health and beauty company Nikken, among the largest of its kind in the world, sent 250 of its workers to Israel last week to learn about the southern city's seaweed supply, and to visit Rehovot's Weizmann Institute, where a number of the company's seaweed-based products are developed.
Nikken has offered visits to Israel as "incentive trips" for years, and in addition to Eilat and Rehovot, this latest group visited sites at the Dead Sea and in Jerusalem, including the city's Hadassah Hospital.
Accompanied at times by Yoshinori Katori, Japan's ambassador to Israel, members of the delegation also met with President Shimon Peres and Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich. On the agenda for the meetings was the start of non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and Japan, which Nikken officials described as a major potential boost to both business relations and tourism ties between the two countries.
The discussions marked the second time in recent months that the subject has been raised with Aharonovich. In August, the tourism minister met with the head of JTB, Japan's largest travel agency, in Tokyo.
The agency official, Takashi Sasaki, pledged to lobby the Japanese government to facilitate the flights, and agreed to return Israel to the list of travel destinations promoted by his firm.
Israel had been removed from the list in 2002, when foreign visits to the country plunged as a result of the second intifada.
Israeli hotels honored with World Travel Awards
Two Israeli hotels are splitting prizes in five categories, the World Travel Awards organization has announced. Tel Aviv's David Intercontinental Hotel took honors as Israel's best hotel and business hotel in the WTA voting, while the Le Meridien Dead Sea Hotel was named the country's leading resort and leading spa resort. A fifth prize, for Israel's nicest hotel suite, went to the David Intercontinental.
Voted on by travel agents from around the world, the World Travel Awards are given on both a regional and country-by-country basis. Israel, which is considered part of Europe in the WTA voting, failed to take any prizes in the regional competition. Turkey, also defined as a European country by the WTA, took top honors for the region's best tourist and convention bureau.
The World Travel Awards, now in their 14th year, have recognized Le Meridien Dead Sea in each of the past three years. The awards have been called "the Oscars of tourism" by The Wall Street Journal.