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(photo credit: Courtesy )
Why pay professionals when you can develop a new PR campaign for a fraction of the cost? That, in any case, seems to be part of the rationale at the Tourism Ministry, which is now taking suggestions from the public for a new logo and slogan that will be used to promote Israel at home and overseas in the lead-up to the country's 60th birthday next year. As part of the contest, individuals and teams can mail their proposals to the Tourism Ministry through May 17, with an elite 20 finalists moving on to the contest's second round.
From there, members of the public can get even more closely involved in the new PR project, with the ministry set to post the final 20 contenders on-line before tallying votes cast via its Web site. The Ministry has appointed a special committee to oversee the project, which includes high-ranking officials both past and present of organizations including the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Hotels Association. The preferences of on-line voters will nevertheless amount to 75 percent of the final decision.
The idea for the contest was approved by Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, and is outlined in an 11-page document linked to the ministry's Hebrew-language homepage. In the document, potential competitors are reminded that submissions should appeal to as wide a demographic spectrum as possible, and that proposed slogans and logos should be clearly tied to the country's approaching 60th anniversary.
But while the contest is open to the public, it isn't for amateurs - aspiring sloganeers and logo-makers must confirm they have at least three years' experience in publicity or advertising.
And though the fruits of the contest will be used to encourage foreign tourists to visit Israel, the ministry has ruled out the idea of accepting submissions from PR-savvy Israel-lovers abroad. In addition to providing details about their relevant professional experience and no more than five potential slogans or logos, competitors must also show they've filled out the appropriate paperwork at the Tax Authority.
Each of the 20 finalists will receive NIS 1,000 for his or her selection. The third-place contestant will receive NIS 5,000 from the Tourism Ministry, while the runner-up stands to earn NIS 10,000 and the winner will receive NIS 15,000.
In total, the ministry expects to find its new slogan and logo for under NIS 50,000, placing the final selections on all its official documents and advertising materials for the coming year.
"The 60th anniversary celebrations will serve as a marketing anchor for the State of Israel overseas," Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach said. There's no doubt that the [celebrations] will give Israel's image a boost around the world."
Lag Ba'Omer in Meron
Saturday night marks 33 days since the start of Pessah, when hundreds of thousands of visitors typically travel to the northern Galilee town of Meron each year to celebrate Lag Ba'Omer, visiting the grave of Rabbi Shimon BarYochai and taking part in the traditional bonfires marking the holiday.
Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich expects that number to be even higher this year, owing to the fact that the holiday kicks off just as Shabbat comes to a close.
Tourism Ministry officials estimate between 400,000 and 450,000 guests will be in Meron Saturday night, and while Aharonovich went on record this week to "bless" the visitors and say he hopes their holiday prayers are accepted, he also encouraged them to make their move northward a day or two early to help cut down on the traffic and security concerns.
Blessings aside, Aharonovich has taken additional steps to enable Lag Ba'Omer to pass smoothly and safely. In addition to meeting with security officials and those responsible for the country's holy places, he's approved an increase of NIS 500,000 for this year's events, bringing the total budget for the holiday to NIS 2.8 million.
El Al, Strauss join forces in the galley
Breakfasts in El Al's business class are about to get a whole lot more Israeli. The airline announced this week that it's joining forces with dairy giant Strauss to create a new morning menu for its business travelers, a project the two companies are funding together with a NIS 500,000 investment.
The breakfasts will feature a variety of Strauss products, naturally, including cheeses and yogurts alongside tehina, olives and other traditional Israeli staples. The companies estimate they'll serve 200,000 such breakfasts in the coming year, with the first of the planned meals featuring a Galilee theme. Jerusalem-, Tel Aviv- and desertthemed breakfasts are also in the works, with the various meals being developed by rising young Israeli chefs recruited by the two companies.
El Al plans to serve the breakfasts on flights to and from Europe, part of the company's ongoing efforts to woo business travelers. The airline has seen a 30 percent growth in its business class over the last five years,CEO Haim Romano says, and the carrier expects significant additional growth by the end of the decade.
The seats are getting better, too
El Al's breakfast investment is small change compared to the $20 million the company is spending on new seats for its 747 and 777 jumbo liners. The seats will be a starting feature in business and first class on the airline's new 777s - which are set to begin service the summer - and are replacing the current business class seats on the company's existing 747 and 777 fleet.
El Al ordered the new seats, designed by the French company SICMA, based on the recommendation of travel agents and passengers at a 2006 meeting organized by the airline to get feedback about potential seating options.