Although I am more than happy that tourism expert Mark Feldman wrote a promotional article about Belgrade in The Jerusalem Post, (“Considering Belgrade and the Balkans,” May 5) it is my professional duty to point out a few inaccuracies and make some personal observations.
The claim that the Government of the Republic of Serbia “doesn’t seem ready to invest in promoting the country,” obviously referred to fostering tourism from Israel. The familiarization trip (FAM) for six Israeli tour operators, the motivation for the article in question, was exactly that. The national carrier, Air Serbia, renewed direct flights to Ben-Gurion Airport on April 6, hence the timing of FAM’s trip.
The next, similar trip will focus on accommodation and Serbia’s national parks in which unique, beautiful trees, flowers and water attractions can be found. It will concentrate on areas in the southwest of the country, such as the Tara National Park, the Zlatibor area and the Uvac Special Nature Reserve. A Serbian culinary presentation in one of Tel Aviv’s hotels is also being arranged.
Work is needed by Serbian tourist organizations
No doubt, additional work is needed by national, municipal and regional Serbian tourist organizations, but one shouldn’t forget that Serbia already enjoys a significant amount of tourism from all over the world. Tourism organizations in Serbia, and in its capital Belgrade in particular, are among the first to be credited for this success.
Additionally, I would like Israel to focus on investments in the Serbian tourism industry, such as the Mama Shelter Belgrade Hotel, which hosted the FAM group.
IN HIS article, Feldman stated that “Serbia was involved in the Yugoslav Wars – in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo – which took place between 1991 and 2001. Many of us remember the former president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, who was convicted of war crimes and died in a Dutch prison in 2006.”
It is important to remember that the war in Slovenia was a short, 10-day military conflict in which 63 people in total – from both sides – were tragically killed. The Yugoslav People’s Army, which consisted of soldiers from all sectors of Yugoslav Republics, including ethnic minorities, participated in this conflict as the country had not completely disbanded at the time.
As for Kosovo, and more specifically the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, this is actually sovereign Serbian territory. Not only is Kosovo a Serbian-Jerusalem – a cradle of its spirituality, national identity and history, but it is also a Serbian-Galilee, bearing in mind the demographic tendencies.
Regarding the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milоsevic, he was not convicted but indicted.
Finally, the last war in which Serbia was involved as part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, took place in 1999, and not in 2001 as Feldman wrote in his article. I suspect that he was referring to the insurgency which took place in – what is today – North Macedonia, to which Serbia was not connected whatsoever at the time.
The last few years have been very challenging for the diplomatic staff at the Serbian Embassy in Tel Aviv, all of whom had to deal with COVID-19 and its aftermath. They also had to deal with the consequences of Israeli recognition of self-proclaimed Kosovo in February 2021.
The embassy is headed by Mihajlo Tripic, first counselor and consul, chargé d’affaires. Boris Krasny, a refusenik and a key activist in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, first among the two Serbian honorary consuls, is also a very influential person.
Despite the recent struggles, positive results have come from Israeli investments, such as a surge in trade and innovation ecosystems between the two countries. Collaboration with the Balkan Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Embassy in Belgrade has also contributed to that.
Serbia, with its burgeoning tourism industry, is well known for its hospitality and friendly attitude toward Israeli and Jewish tourists. Their signature drinks – rakija, dunja, loza – will also be in plentiful supply.
The writer is the honorary consul of the Republic of Serbia to Israel, and director of the Representative Office of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia in Jerusalem. For questions and comments, email him at email@example.com.