Israel turns destroyed towns in Gaza into tourist sites 

Israel turns destroyed towns in Gaza into tourist sites 

As we enter into month 9 of the Israel-Hamas war that has destroyed dozens of towns and villages throughout Gaza, Israel has taken the opportunity to use the destruction as a new way to boost its tourism sector, reported Euronews and AFP on June 24th. 

For visiting dignitaries and VIPs, tours in Israel usually consist of visiting famous religious or cultural sights, such as the Western Wall, Masada, the Sea of Galilee or the national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Now added to the list of must-sees are the many towns and villages bordering Gaza where people have lost their families, their homes and their lives. 

Elon Musk, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Douglas, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former American presidential candidate, Nikki Haley are among the few a-list celebrities who have visited, at times posing for photos in front of burned-out homes. 

The trips to the destroyed towns are Israel’s latest way to try and rebuild wobbly support with allies abroad. 

READ: UN slams Israel for Gaza war crimes 

Many of the kibbutzim and towns that experienced the worst bombardment are closed to the public, accessible only via organised tours like those for dignitaries or celebrities, or by invitation from a resident. 

Other parts of southern Israel are completely open to the public and are encouraging visitors, both foreigners and Israelis from elsewhere. 

The tours are currently only open to soldiers on official educational visits; however, an English version will be available in the coming weeks for international tourists.

The city of Sderot runs “resilience tours,” connecting groups with survivors who share their memories of Oct. 7 or highlight cultural or culinary offerings. 

South of Sderot, the site of the Nova music festival has become a pilgrimage site for hundreds of visitors per day. Photos of victims surrounded by candles and other momentous are left by loved ones around what had been the main stage. 

An organisation called the “Triumph of the Spirit” are offering virtual reality tours of three Kibbutzim in a eucalyptus grove near the site. 

As tourism accounts for around 3% of Israel’s economy, the tours offered are in an effort to revive Israel’s tourism sector which has been hit hard since the beginning of the war in Gaza on October 7th, 2023.

According to figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, compared to the number of tourists in Israel in Q4 of 2022 which was 930,000, it had declined by 81.5% by Q4 of 2023, amounting to 180,000 tourists. 

Against the backdrop of a war that still rages on, where many Gazans have lost their lives, turning mass gravesites into the latest tourism spots can be seen as a distasteful move. No ceasefire deal has been reached and many are still suffering under Israel’s Iron fist. 


Euronews/ AFP. 


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