‘Ziona’: Not what you think

In a promotional video released online this past week, “Ziona," a young woman, speeds on her bike across the capital – clearly trying to send a message of a young and dynamic city.

In a screenshot from the video, ‘Ziona’ bikes along Hamesila Park (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
In a screenshot from the video, ‘Ziona’ bikes along Hamesila Park
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
The intentions were certainly the best – what could possibly be better than releasing a nice video showing Jerusalem from a totally different point of view? Forget about the old and historic sites, issues and stories, and make way for a new, young, vivid and energetic city, in which extreme sports are a reality on the ground... wouldn’t it be nice to attract young tourists to visit such an innovative and inviting Jerusalem?
Well... maybe, and maybe not. This was the intention behind a campaign of the Jerusalem Development Authority, presented by “Ziona” in a video released online this past week, introducing a young woman speeding on her bike across the capital – clearly trying to send a message of a young and dynamic city, worthy of a visit by young people. (See video at www.facebook.com/ zionajerusalem)
The results, however, are anything but nice, not to mention the ugly messages coming up in the video. As to the reactions, well, this is certainly a matter of interpretation, but since its release the video has raised lot of criticism and anger.
A spokesman for the Jerusalem Development Authority told this journalist that the video – shown to a select audience abroad, comprised of members of the targeted young generation – received some enthusiastic reactions. What he could not say was whether these reactions came from those who were actually planning, following the screening, to pack up and come ride a bike in the streets of Jerusalem, like Ziona.
But what matters more, with all due respect to that specific audience, is what Jerusalemites think about this video – and, judging by the reactions on social media, they feel a mix of revulsion, anger, disdain and rejection. Not exactly the ingredients of which successful dishes are made.
So what do we see in the video? Ziona, wearing a nice, short (in fact, very short) summer dress, rides a bicycle through the capital’s streets as the names of the sites she passes through, all interesting spots in the city, appear on the screen. But Ziona is not just any young woman touring Jerusalem, she is a young, energetic woman who likes extreme sports.
Thus, as the beautiful and historic sites are just a background for her favorite activity, she climbs up and ride down the narrow streets of the Old City, pushing aside passersby, stealing an ice cream from another pedestrian and chaotically overturning the bagel cart of Zaki, an Arab vendor who is apparently so charmed by our Ziona’s energy that not only doesn’t he try to stop her, though she ruined his income for the day, he even greets her with a nice “Shalom!” Is there anyone out there who believes for a moment that this man would react like that under normal circumstances? But hey, Ziona is only trying to convince young adults that there are no limits if only you agree to come to Jerusalem...and the video goes on and on with similarly revolting scenes.
Jerusalem is not an easy “product” to sell to foreign tourists. Besides its wonderful and incomparable attractions, it is a city too often linked to violence, riots, terrorism. The tourism department at the Jerusalem Development Authority is working hard, very hard, to sell the city to tourists.
Most of the time, it is doing a good job, and its staff’s dedication to the city is not in question.
But this time, they made a huge mistake.
The first mistake is the assumption that you have to pander to the young generation in order to raise its interest in anything. Nobody is riding extreme in the streets of Jerusalem, and if someone tried doing it, the police would stop them in their tracks. So why try to attract people through a lie?
The second issue is a matter of principle – the repeated attempts to sell Jerusalem for what it is not are all doomed to failure, because there are other reasons, more basic, that will cause visitors to come or not come here. None of these reasons are linked to the fallacious promotion of Jerusalem as a playground for extreme sports, certainly not as a place where merchants have to smile at a person who has just knocked their merchandise cart to the ground. That’s rude, aggressive and shows a Jerusalem in which young Jewish women can publicly disdain Arab merchants as a way of life – and we’re talking about an official video made by a company that belongs to the state and the municipality.
The Jerusalem Development Authority’s official response is that the video means to show Jerusalem in a nice and humorous way, that all the scenes were staged and that it regrets it if someone was hurt.
Ah yes, and the cost, still according to the spokesman, was NIS 25,500 (not including promotion).