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Cheryl Hechter on the Netanya beach ( a rare photo of Cheryl as she does not usually go to the beach)
photo by Doron Hechter Raphaeli


Netanya Coast
photo by Rhonda Spivak


The inflatable Panda in Netanya square with the Israeli flags flying out of its ears
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Sunset, Netanya beach
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 

Editor between the rocks on Netanya's beach

Editor's Report from Netanya: The Ruskies Aren't Afraid-Tourists Still coming- Red Wine may help Depression from Rocket Fire

by Rhonda Spivak, July 21, 2014


 

I took a "day off" this past Shabbat from following Israel's ground invasion of Gaza to destroy Hamas tunnels  and to go to the Netanya beach, on a day where there was a beautiful sea breeze, no jellyfish, and French tourists filled the Sironit beach (Since the war, there luckily has only been one siren sounded in Netanya) 
 

 

A day earlier,on Friday night, on Argaman Beach in Netanya people were also on the beach and the only thing that was different than usual was that at seven o'clock when the life guard left duty he called out on the loudspeaker "Shabbat Shalom" (that's usual) and then he said the words that I do not usually hear, words that everyone is saying here: AM ISRAEL CHAI (Translated: The nation of Israel lives).
 

 

 

On Thursday evening at the Victory supermarket in the industrial area of Netanya, I noticed that at the very front of the store near the cashier counters , bottles of red wine were on sale for only 20 shekels each (about 5-6 dollars). This sale came two days after the Times of Israel ran a story titled "Depressed by the Rocket Fire? A drink may help" (http://www.timesofisrael.com/depressed-by-the-rocket-fire-a-drink-may-help/ ) and I began wondering if the store owners had read the article.
 

 

On our way out, there was a teenager collecting cookies and food to send to the IDF soldiers risking their lives to protect this country against Hamas rocket fire and  we bought two containers of almond cookies, and sunflower seeds to add to the collection.  My friend Orli and a group of Hadassah women in Ashkelon will also be collecting items and spending the day making packages for soldiers. I have given them chocolate bars, as well as toiletries such as  soap, deoderant, and shampoo which IDF soldiers need (They are also in need of white t-shirts and underwear.) [Note: I expect this war to go on for another few weeks] 
 

On Friday, after the first day of the ground invasion I decided I would stop in at a sampling of hotels here to see if there were still tourists coming, thinking that there must be many cancellations. 
 

 

At the modest Ginot Yam hotel facing the sea in Netanya where a room for a single person is $105.00 a night, the Russian speaking middle aged female Israeli clerk told me the hotel is full and there are no cancellations due to the war. I was taken aback and after noticing Russian tourist pamphlets and two little Russian dolls out in the lobby, I asked if the hotel got a lot of Russian tourists. The clerk answered that the hotel was completely filled with Russian tourists. "HaRoosim Hem Lo Pachdanim. Hem Lo Mevatlim." (Translated: The Russians aren't afraid. They aren't cancelling.") And she also said, "Look they are hawks," and "they are coming to see the holy land. Most of the them coming here are from Moscow and St. Petersburg."


I asked if any of the Russian tourists were Jewish. "No, they are all Christian," she replied.
 

 

But at the upper end Island Hotel, where a room during the week runs $250-300 a night, and $400 a night over Shabbat, the blonde Israeli Russian clerk at the front desk said "Yes, for sure there have been cancellations. But there are also still people coming. We have guests from Russia, Ukraine, France, the US, Canada." She added that given the violence in the Ukraine, the hotel gets a lot of Ukrainian tourists. "Even now we have four or five rooms of Ukrainian tourists." 
 

 

At a coffee shop nearby the Island Hotel, the owner said that there were fewer tourists "but we're still hoping for a good August."

 

At the remodelled King Solomon hotel, as religious Jews filled the lobby talking on Shabbat, the male clerk said that there have not been any cancellations, and the Hotel is full. "We have a group who just arrived today from South Africa," he added. I asked if they were Jewish or not? "No, they are not Jewish," he responded.  He also said that there was internal Israeli tourism as "people from Southern Israel come up from the South they get a bit of a discount." There are many Israelis who are inviting friends from the South of the country to come stay with them or use their apartment if they are going to be out of town as a way of giving respite to the people of the beleagured South. 
 

 

At the Ramada Renaissance Hotel, the clerk said that "there definitely have been cancellations, and that the hotel is filled with a lot of Israelis who have come from the south and are given discounts to enable them to stay." (Note: Israelis from the South are also not charged to go to national parks or museums or other state run attractions.)
 

 

In the upper end Seasons Hotel which runs $400 per night, the clerk said the hotel is full from people from all over--France, England, the US, and Canada.
 
 
In  Netanya's Park Hotel by the sea, I paused in the lobby to look at the photos of the owner of the hotel who was killed in the infamous Passover Massacre, a suicide bombing carried out by Hamas on March 2002, during a Passover Seder. The attack, which resulted in thirty civilians being killed and 140 injured was the deadliest attack against Israelis during the Second Intifada and led to Ariel Sharon's decision to build the security fence and to destroy Palestinian terror infrastructure in the West Bank. The photos of the deceased owner  of the  hotel are  a sobering reminder here of how easily Netanya, which is on Israeli's narrow coastal waist which is only 9 miles wide, could easily become the target of incessant rocket fire if Hamas ever were to take over the West Bank (Netanya in that event would become the equivalent of Sderot.) The security guard tells me that the owner's children and wife and wife's father are now running the hotel, which is full with people from all over.
 
 
In the Netanya square, the public events that are usually put on by the Municipality have all been cancelled, including last Saturday night's Brazilian dancing, and a scheduled concert in the town seaside amphitheatre. (In fact musicians, sound and lighting technicians and others in the entertainment industry here suffer economically as all of the performances in the Southern part of the country have been cancelled, as well as many in Jerusalem and elsewhere.)  

 

Because the Netanya town square and its stores and restaurants were built in the 1950's, there is (to the best of my knowledge) only one bomb shelter in the area. (In the event of a rocket if you couldn't get to the shelter you are supposed to dash into a restaurant, hit the g

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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