Tourism Ministry promotes only 'positive images' of Israel

Which image presents Israel's case to the world more effectively?

youtube israel 224.88 (photo credit: Screenshot)
youtube israel 224.88
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Which image presents Israel's case more effectively - a video of a horrific terrorist attack or a clip of happy tourists on a beach? The Tourism Ministry on Tuesday launched an initiative to upload only "positive videos about Israel" on the popular video-sharing Web site, YouTube. The move came a week after the Prime Minister's Office reportedly posted three graphic videos of the Mercaz Harav massacre on March 6 in which eight students were murdered. Officials at the Tourism Ministry said the gruesome scenes of terror (one of which warned that it was not suitable for viewers under 18) were harmful to its efforts to promote tourism here. "The terror attack videos greatly hurt Israel's image as a desired tourist destination," said Tourism Ministry Director-General Shaul Tzemach. "There is no doubt that Israel will benefit, both economically and politically, from these videos, which will present Israel in a positive way rather than those terror attacks videos that create and intimidating image." "We are working to make sure that any Internet surfer who types 'Israel' while surfing the YouTube Web site will get a variety of positive videos rather than negative ones," Tzemach added. Among the videos to be uploaded soon by the ministry will be clips of tourists visiting the country and relating their personal experiences here. In addition, the ministry plans to urge communities and organizations around the world supportive of Israel to join its new PR effort. "Expanding information about touring Israel and creating a dialogue among surfers on the Net will help make Israel an attractive, natural and available tourist destination," the ministry said in a statement. The ministry noted it had also uploaded information on 300 tourist sites and 500 accommodation choices in Israel on Google Earth's virtual globe program - including maps, pictures, information and Internet links. The videos of the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav, put up last Wednesday under the name AtiyaRachel and the title, "Stop the terror, stop the bloodshed," received thousands of hits on YouTube. One clip, lasting just one minute, flashed bloody pictures inside the yeshiva following the terrorist attack, as the sound track documented an emergency call made by a yeshiva student, with English subtitles. On Wednesday night alone, the video had over 5,000 viewings. At least one press report, in TheMarker, claimed it had been the first time the government had officially employed the YouTube Web site, but spokesmen for the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry declined to confirm this. "We never confirmed publicly that we were doing that," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev. "It was in one of the tabloids and I can't comment on it at all." A Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the report completely. An unidentified source told TheMarker that "officials in Jerusalem" planned to upload videos following any future terrorist attacks. After record numbers of tourists in January and February, the Tourism Ministry said it planned a new marketing campaign to "maintain the growth in the number of visiting tourists despite the global economic crisis." Some 200,000 tourists entered Israel in February, more than any previous month, and 46 percent more than the previous year. Tourism broke a record in January as well, with 182,000 visitors, up 57% from the year before. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has still not appointed a new tourism minister to replace Yitzhak Aharonovich, who stepped down when his party, Israel Beiteinu, left the government in January. Aharonovich has charged that the lack of a tourism minister was harming the tourist industry.