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August 17, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 17, 2012

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 17, 2012 Flying high: El AI to honor cheap tickets to Israel from glitch By Adam Soclof The glitch was the result of On Aug. 7, the day after "Once we said it, we may NEW YORK (JTA)--EI A1 Airlines said it will honor all tickets purchased during a glitch that had thousands of round-trip tickets selling for as low as $330. The airline also announced Aug. 9 that those who pur- chased tickets three days ear- lier at the hugely discounted fare would be given the oppor- tunity to convert their tickets to a direct flight provided by E1 AI for an additional $75 each way rather than fly with a codeshare partner with a connecting flight in Europe. "Although a review of this occurrence has not been fi- nalized, a decision was made to accommodate El AI pas- sengers who purchased these low fares because we value our reputation of offering excel- By Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line Cresting the summit of Tel Kinrot, the blue-gray waters of the Sea of Galilee come into view. It has been a steady climb for Ramon Contras, a devout Christian from El Paso, Texas, but he says he feels the spirit of the Lord behind him. "I feel very happy to be walking on the steps that Jesus walked," Contras told The Media Line. "I always remember that Jesus Christ walked all around here and he never got tired, you know, and everything he did we're supposed to do." Contras is one of the first Christian pilgrims to hike the newly inaugurated Gospel Trail, which meanders across the Galilee region. Launched officially in late November, the goal is to get tourists off the beaten track of city sites connectedwith the life of Jesus and take them on the true path, the one that Jesus literally walked when he preached his ministry fromvillage tovillage in the Galilee. Kayak screenshot/Mark Tang via CC A computer glitch in travelgencl/websites helped thou- sands to book E! A1 flights trn the U.S. to Israel at an extremely low cost. lent customer service," said Danny Saadon, El Al's vice president of North America, in a statement released Aug. 9. "Hopefully we have provided an opportunity to many first timers to visit Israel as well as reconnect family and friends." A full refund without pen- alty also will be offered to passengerswhowish to cancel their ticket. a third party subcontracted by E! A! to post the Israeli airline's winter promotional fares online. According to E1 A1, the discounted airfares were the result of the subcon- tractor failing to add the fuel surcharge to the total price. In an interview Aug. 9 with JTA, Saadon took credit for pitching the idea to honor the fares to El A1 President and CEO Elyezer Shkedy, but said the decision for the direct flight add-on was Shkedy's. "If we're honoring pas- sengers' tickets, let's also offer them an opportunity to fly with El Al, and make life easier for families ;that might lose baggage and lose a connection," Saadon said in explaining the company's rationale behind the add-on offer. the glitch set off a three- hour buying frenzy, an El Al spokesperson told The New York Jewish Week that the status of tickets pur- chased during the frenzy was "unclear." The position was reinforced Aug. 8 by a follow-up statement posted to the company's Twitter feed. "Thanks foryour patience," the tweet read. "Details/deci- sions re incorrect fares that were briefly sold on Monday [Aug. 6] are not finalized." The wavering was in con- trast to two separate Twitter posts on the afternoon of Aug. 6 that pledged to honor the tickets. Saadon in the JTA interview acknowledged that the company's posts via Twitter that day may have been a contributing factor in the decision to honor the tickets. as well follow our word," Saadon said. The decision to honor was "mainly to save face with El Al," he said. "We're talking about thousands of passen- gers. Most are customers anyways, they just took ad- vantage of a ticket that was available at a low price. We'd rather keep them flying with El Al without disappointing them." To minimize exposure to similar glitches in the future, Saadon said that El AI will review fares before they are posted online and maintain a buffer of two hours before the process is finalized. "I'm very pleased with the decision we made," he said. "Our customers are very important to us and we want them to fly E1 Al." Gospel Trail puts tourists on path of Jesus The Israeli Tourism Ministry has launched what it calls The Gospel Trail. The trail starts at the out- skirts of Nazareth, the town of Jesus' youth, and winds some 62 kilometers (37 miles) until it reaches Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called his disciples to him. It was decided to start the trail at the Mount of Precipice, or Mount of the Leap, since that marks the spot where Jesus symbolically set out on his ministry. According to tradition, this is where a mob, angry that he evoked he was the Messiah, dragged Jesus to its cliff, his poor mother watch- ing in horror. But before they could toss him off, he calmly "walked through the crowd" and leapt over the precipice. (Luke 4:28-31) Pope Benedict XVI visited the site in 2009. The trail actually links three existing pathways used since biblical times and the Tour- ism Ministry and the Jewish National Fund put up the NIS 3 million ($800,000) to clean and mark the trail with dedicated stone mounds and produce maps and awebsite. According to the Tourism Ministry, two out of three of the 3.45 million tourists who visited Israel in 2010were Christians. The gov- ernment wants to make their visit better with this unique heritage trail. "We believe that we will en- large and increase the number of pilgrims thatarrive in Israel, that arrive in the Galilee, that arrive at this trail by many hundreds of thousands of people. This is money for the treasury and helps to create small enterprises. It creates also the right positive image of the state of Israel," Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov told The Media Line. The trail is also open to bicycle and horseback riders. But most of the trekkers are expected to do it by foot. "This is the trail that Jesus Christ did by foot with his fol- lowers. When you go on this trail you can image that you are walking in his footsteps and you can imagine what he saw, what kind of animals he saw,whatkind of plants he saw, what kind of view he saw," said Misezhnikov. The route incorporates a number of important Chris- tian holy sites, including Migdal, the village of Mary Magdalene as well as the nearby spring of Ein Nun. Fa- ther Juan Maria Solana, head of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center and charge of The Holy See, says he is confident the trail would become popular. It takes three or four days to hike the entire Gospel Trail as it passes through areas of stunning beauty and makes the Bible come alive. If it at- tracts enough trekkers, it also promises to attract businesses from bed and breakfast inns to cafes along the way in the Jewish and Arab communities that line the trail. Misezhnikov says his Tour- ism Ministry has repositioned the way it markets Israel and has made the Christian audi- ence its top priority audience. The Gospel Trial was made for them. "This is the most important market for us. This is the ma- jority of the people who are coming here and this is one of the brands and I am very proud to say we developed it under my watch," he said. "Many, many Christians from all over the world want to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. As you know we cannot follow by car or by bus, or by plane, but by just walking. So I think this is a great initiative. And it will be blessed by many, many people," Solana says. Israel is one of the most industrialized nations in the Middle East and yet here in the Galilee hills one can see the same flora and fauna and vistas that existed 2,000 years ago.Amir Moran, project man- ager and planner of the Gospel Trail, says he was inspired by the Santigo Trail in Spain. "I saw many heritage ways in the world and I thought to myself why don't we have one of our own where Christian- ity started?" Moran told The Media Line. "I think the experience is totally different ]walking the trail] because when you come by bus you go out of the bus After 7 years, Gaza evacuees grow distant from settler movement I and enter the church. This is one thing. It is important, but it is not like having the experi- ence of walking and spending time and seeing the landscapes of this area where everything started." The Gospel Trail answers a growing trend for theme tour- ism, Moran says, pointing to tours based on food, composers and battlefields, for example. "People want to travel but want a specific subject, narrative, to conduct their own journey around it," he says. For Fernando Betancourt, a Christian minister from Ari- zona, being one of the first to walkthe Gospel Trail makes his pilgrimage to the Holy Land all that more extraordinary. "Walking the Gospel Trail gives you a very spiritual ex- perience where you feel drawn closer to the presence of the Lord," he said. "As you walk the trails, just by thinking you are walking where Jesus walked and where he taught his disciples and he preached and performed miracles is re- ally a spiritual experience all in itself." Yuval Nefesh A music festival in August for the Gush Katif evacuees was set up by the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council. By Ben Sales live in Gush Katif, the bloc NITZAN, Israel (JTA)-- From an overlooking road, the district of this desert town called Nitzan B seems like a unified mass of identical red- roofed single-family homes, reminiscent of a crowded American postwar Levittown. "From far away it looks nice," says Galit Kakon, a Nitzan B resident. Like the rest of the district's 600 families, Kakon used to of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip that Israel evacu- ated seven years ago last week in an operation called "the disengagement." Nitzan B's residents still self-segregate in the dis- trict according to the places where they once lived in Gaza--small agricultural settlements like Kakon's Gan Or, or larger towns like Neve Dekalim. Many dream of an unlikely return to Gaza and Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA Children play together in Nitzan, a religious communal settlement in southern Israel, where many of the Gush Katif evacuees were relocated following the Gaza pullout. the lives they were forced to leave. Up close, Nitzan B, about 15 miles north of Gaza, looks like the temporary development it is, built as a transitional space to use immediately after the 2005 disengagement. The houses sit cramped along streets on barren land, with walls that Kakon says are so weak that they pose a security risk should Kassam rockets fall nearby. By the end of this year, about 100 Nitzan B fami- lies are slated to move to a new, permanent develop- ment called Be'er Ganim. As with Nitzan B, Be'er Ganim is under the jurisdiction of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council, the local government on which Nitzan B's residents have come to rely. But despite wishing for a return to better times, some of these Israelis, who once were considered the vanguard of Israel's settler movement, Nati Shohat/Flash90/JTA Israeli soldiers evacuate Jewish settlers from Neve Dekallm on the morning of the Gaza pullout, Aug. 18, 2005. no longer see themselves as part of the settler community. Although many still identify with the settler movement's goals and philosophy, they have little day-to-day contact with them. For the most part, the set- tler community in the West Bank does not view members of the Nitzan B community as fellow settlers. Nevertheless, the West Bank settlers sym- pathize with the evacuees and at least one nonprofit assists them. But mostly, as Kakon says, "Everyone is busy with their own." "There were efforts throughout this period to as- sist the people, but a particular campaign doesn't exist," said David Haivri, a spokesman for towns in the northern West Bank. He noted that West Bank settlers identify with Gush Katif evacuees in that the West Bank may someday Gaza on page 18A