- Between May 1948 and January 2007, some 50 million tourists visited Israel. Tourism is of economic and symbolic importance for Israelis. The tourist industry today employs about 100,000 Israelis and generates $3-$3.5 billion in income for Israel's economy. In addition, tourism has always served as a means through which Israelis can bridge the isolation they experience because of the economic boycott imposed by the Arabs.Despite the best efforts of the Israeli government to insulate it, the tourism industry in Israel inevitably has been adversely affected by fluctuations in the security situation. This was in evidence during the height of the al-Aksa intifada, when waves of Palestinian suicide bombings on the streets of Israeli cities, especially between 2001 and 2003, precipitated a significant decrease in visits to Israel. However, relative improvements in the security situation have contributed to higher tourism levels. For instance, tourist arrivals in 2005 — about 1.9 million—were 26 percent higher than in 2004 (1.5 million) and 79 percent higher than in 2003 (1.1 million) but still 21 percent lower than the peak in 2000 (2.4 million) in the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Al-Aksa intifada. The Second Lebanon War (2006) caused another downturn in tourism to Israel, with industry professionals speculating a loss of more than 500,000 visitors due to the hostilities. An estimated 2.3 million tourists entered Israel in 2007, a 25-percent increase from the previous year.The character of tourism to Israel has changed significantly over the decades. Initially, the average tourist was overwhelmingly Jewish and from the United States. Today, a far greater proportion of tourism is among non-Jews; one in every three tourists from the United States is said to be an Evangelical Christian. While the United States remains the single largest source of tourists, an increasingly large proportion of tourists are also arriving from France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina, and South Africa. The next great challenge for Israel's tourism industry— attracting tourists from Arab and Muslim countries—must await the achievement of peace treaties and normalized relations with those countries.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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