Holy Land Deserted by Tourists as Fighting Empties Hotels

From Bloomberg News: 

Omer Benjoya took a job this summer selling drinks, snacks and postcards on a hill that offers one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of Jerusalem.

Now all the 17-year-old needs are customers. Since hostilities flared this month between Israel’s army and Palestinian militants in Gaza, tourists have been scarce.

U.S. aviation regulators delivered a further blow this week, temporarily banning flights to Tel Aviv by American carriers for the first time since 1991, while their European counterparts also recommended a suspension after a rocket fired from Gaza landed about a mile from the city’s airport. The decisions came just days after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down in Ukraine’s war zone.

“Look around, see how empty it is,” Benjoya said next to the bright red truck his employer uses as a refreshment kiosk. “Normally, there’d be one or two hundred people standing here,” he said, gesturing to the near-empty stone-paved promenade that overlooks the walls of the Old City, the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.

While Jerusalem is calm, fighting that has left hundreds of Palestinian and more than two dozen Israeli families grieving their dead is threatening the livelihoods of many more. Almost a third of foreign visitors expected in Israel in July have canceled, according to a top trade association. An industry that welcomed a record 3.5 million overseas visitors last year is facing substantial damage.

Read on here.

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