MK Rabbi Margi: It’s Absurd That Israeli Hotels Are Deserted While 50,000 Israelis Are in the UAE

A businessman, upon landing in Israel on a  flydubai flight, at Ben Gurion International Airport, in November. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee on the dire state of domestic tourism while the state is allowing people to travel abroad, Committee Chairman MK Rabbi Yaakov Margi (Shas) said, “It’s absurd that the hotels are deserted while 50,000 Israelis are vacationing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He who [permitted] tens of thousands of tourists to visit a cluster of hotels in Dubai could have allowed himself to prepare an outline for opening a number of hotels in Israel.

“It cannot be that Israeli tourism is wallowing in its own blood and we [allow Israelis to travel] abroad,” he said. “I expect the Health Ministry and the coronavirus cabinet to conduct themselves in a responsible and balanced manner, so that the public will also understand that there is minimal logic.”

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said, “An absurd situation existed where the skies were open and Israelis were being sent to vacation abroad, while in Israel we were advancing the ‘green islands’ outline, but the hotels in Israel remained closed. As tourism minister, I thought this was discriminatory. I had three conversations with the health minister about this, and the morbidity rate began to climb. We scheduled a meeting with the Health Ministry on a host of issues – restaurants, attractions and hotels. There is no news, but I believe that preparing in advance is the way to do it.”

Dr. Ofra Havkin, Central District Officer of Health at the Ministry of Health, said, “The public traveled abroad and did not abide by the regulations. This is why we have seen some people coming back sick. We did not expect this.”

Yael Danieli, CEO of the Israel Hotel Association, told the committee that the grants that had been promised six months ago were received only a month ago. Fifteen percent of the hotels are open, while 85% are “bleeding,” she said. Hotels that are open but are operating at 20% occupancy are better off closing down, she explained, adding, “Many will remain closed until incoming tourism returns to Israel.”

Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzchak Halevi said the “green islands” plan has been working successfully for five weeks now, and “Eilat is still green.” He said that even if the government decides on another lockdown, “the city must remain open, because its economy is based on tourism.”

Committee Chairman Rabbi Margi summed up the meeting and said, “The committee calls on the Tourism Ministry and Health Ministry to reach balanced decisions regarding the opening of tourism industries. The committee is of the opinion that opening the skies for [outgoing] tourism without an outline for opening domestic tourism creates an imbalance, and it calls on the Tourism Ministry and Health Ministry to formulate an outline for the activity of internal tourism, even if in a partial and limited manner.”

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