'Dreamy weekend in Syria for only $390'

Only the fine print notes that the price is for one room, a double bed - and dependent on the Saudi peace plan.

avaaz ad 298 (photo credit: )
avaaz ad 298
(photo credit: )
A sultry-eyed woman beckons from under her hijab, welcoming Israelis to the sandy hills and glittering ocean in the backdrop. "Dreamy weekend in Syria - only $390," advertises the billboard. While enticing Israelis to travel by featuring attractive women and scenery are nothing new, these billboards were created to stop Israelis in their tracks. Israelis, or anyone with an Israel stamp in their passport, cannot currently travel to most member states of the Arab League, but these ads feature "enemy states" such as Saudi Arabia and Syria in a whole new way. The billboards, which will be unveiled in Jerusalem on Thursday by Avaaz.org, offer the great weekend deals with only the fine print noting that the price is for one room, a double bed - and dependent on the Saudi peace plan. "Peace deals are like travel packages - you need to know what you're getting," said Avaaz.org's campaign director Paul Hilder. "It's time for Israel to test this Arab and Palestinian offer - and to prove its own seriousness by putting core issues like borders and Jerusalem on the table." Last week, Jordan's King Abdullah invited Acting President Dalia Itzik to Jordan, and impressed upon her the seriousness of Jordan's commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative. Itzik and other Knesset members called the trip a "serious move" on the part of the Jordanians to advance the peace process. Avaaz.org, a global civic advocacy group, began the billboard campaign as part of "Real Peace Talks Now," a campaign to get Israeli, Palestinian and international leaders to start full negotiations before June 5, which marks the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War. "Israelis love travel, but our focus groups burst out laughing when they saw these ads. Their [Israelis] visiting Damascus, Dubai, even Jericho is inconceivable today - unless they're in uniform," said Hilder. "We wanted to help Israelis look and think again about the Arab Peace Initiative, we wanted them to think about what normalization really means." Roie Yeilin, who was part of the Israeli team that helped conceive of and create the billboards, said Avaaz was trying to engage Israelis and not "tell them what to do." "It is mostly young people in this organization," said Yeilin. "We are speaking to them in their language, with humor, in an Internet-savvy and multimedia type of way." Avaaz.org was cofounded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and MoveOn.org, an Internet advocacy group in the United States.