Is Israel's Tourism Ministry cursed?

Eight out of last 12 tourism ministers didn't even last a year

Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Asaf Zamir casts his vote in the municipal elections on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Asaf Zamir casts his vote in the municipal elections on Tuesday, October 30, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
At the changing of the guard ceremony in which Asaf Zamir took over for Yariv Levin, Zamir surprised the audience of ministry staff by revealing that the Tourism Ministry was actually sought after inside Blue and White.
“Many wanted the Tourism portfolio,” he said at the May 19 event. “There was a big battle over it.”
Zamir noted the elephant in the room, which was the coronavirus that was preventing tourists from visiting, and he asked for patience.
Four and a half months later, he ended up being the impatient one. Zamir resigned over cabinet decisions about the protesters filling the squares, not the tourists who are not coming.
When his resignation becomes official on Monday afternoon, Zamir will join the list of tourism ministers who entered the post with bright ideas but left amid dark circumstances. Out of the dozen tourism ministers appointed since 2000, eight did not even make it through an entire year in the post.
The list, which was compiled by under-worked Jerusalem-based tour guide Kobi Cooper, made Cooper ask the question: “Is there some sort of hex on being tourism minister in Israel?”
Cooper’s list starts with Moshe Katsav (Likud), who served jail time for rape. In his trial, an incident that occurred when he was tourism minister was revealed, but it was inadmissible due to the statute of limitations.
Rehavam Ze’evi (Moledet-National Union) was tourism minister when he was assassinated at what was then called the Jerusalem Hyatt Hotel. His successor, Benny Elon, hid at that same hotel to avoid receiving his letter from then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, firing him for not supporting the Gaza Strip withdrawal.
Elon (Moledet-National Union) died of throat cancer despite never smoking a single cigarette. Gideon Ezra (Likud-Kadima) died of cancer after barely being seen without a cigarette in his short time at the ministry.
Ezra was replaced in the post by Avraham Hirschson (Kadima), who served jail time for embezzlement, not from the ministry but from Holocaust education programs.
Stas Meseznikov (Yisrael Beytenu) served time in prison for an improper deal he made as tourism minister. The charges included actively campaigning for a student festival in Eilat through the ministry, transferring almost NIS 1 million to finance it, while recommending that the organizers employ Julia Roth, with whom he was in a relationship at the time, as the producer.
His bodyguards revealed that he also partied with cocaine and strippers instead of doing his job as tourism minister.
Ehud Olmert, who held the portfolio for six months when he was prime minister, did jail time, but not for his work in that ministry. Ehud Barak, who also held the Tourism portfolio as prime minister, never was convicted of anything, though his ties to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein have been questioned.
Cooper wished good luck to Blue and White’s Orit Farkash-Hacohen, who will replace Zamir.
“I just hope that the new minister reaches out to the licensed tour guides for input,” Cooper said. “We are the ones on the ground with the tourists. We know what they want, and we know where basic services are lacking or nonexistent, and yet there has never been a comprehensive survey done. We should be using this down time to improve the tourism infrastructure, and the guides can play a great role in that. In fact, it is a great time for some introspection in regard to how our industry functions, so that we can create an even better experience for our clients – in addition to a better working environment for the guides, drivers and other members of the industry.”
Cooper concluded on a positive note.
“We can’t wait to get back to work creating meaningful, memorable and enjoyable Israel experiences for people from all around the world,” he said.