Friday, June 22, 2007

Israeli Tourism Industry Collaborates with Maxim to Show Finer Side of Israeli Life

Israel has seen a sharp decline in tourism over the past few years. The deteriorating situations in Lebanon and Gaza and the resulting hostilities against Israel have dried up Israeli’s primary source of revenue, tourism, especially amongst males ages 18-38. So the Ministry of Tourism is advertising in a magazine that has a firm grasp of this demographic: Maxim Magazine!

Maxim is to young adult males what Cosmo is to young adult females. The magazine promises “girls, sex, and sports” and falls barely short of being pornographic. What’s more, the advertisement for Israel certainly comes even closer to being pornographic, featuring Miss Israel 2004 Gal Gadot barely covered and lying in an erotic position promoting a pro-Israel club event.

David Saranga, of the consul for media and public affairs, finds this the best way to appeal to young adult males.

We found that Israel's image among men aged 18-38 is lacking, so we thought we'd approach them with an image they'd find appealing. When you see beautiful women, good-looking people, on the beaches of Tel Aviv ... you understand that Israel has to deal with the conflict, it's true, and there are religious elements in its society, but there are also other things. I want people to know that Israel is much more than a conflict, that people in Israel have normal lives.

Not surprisingly, the religious right is dead set against the advertisement, and is trying to block the ad from being run in July’s Maxim. MK Colette Avital called for an urgent session of parliament to discuss the “pressing matter of state”. MK Zahava Gal-On indicated that Israel should be focusing on “women of substance and accomplishments” rather than selling sex.

Meanwhile, the models see posing for Maxim as an acto fo Zionism. 25 year old former air force sergeant Tali Handel had this to say about the Maxim spread:

The fact that I can represent this country makes me very proud. I don't see anything negative about it. Nothing else brings [people] here, not Jerusalem, not the beautiful nature. People are not interested. So, I think it's okay to use something else to bring them.

The truth is that the Maxim spread may be more representative of Israel than people guess. Many people associate Israel with Orthodox Jews and religious conflict. And certainly the religious right maintains a tremendous amount of power because of their role in maintaining the coalition government. But in many ways, the secular community is the backbone of modern-day Israel.

Secular Jews are the significant majority in Israel today. They have developed a thriving high-tech industry that has provided Israel both a significant economy and the weaponry that has kept Israel alive despite its many conflicts. Israel has a nightlife and music industry that compares with any secular party scene in Europe. And yes, Israel has some of the most beautiful beaches and beautiful women in the world.

While the ultra-Orthodox spit on the soldiers who protect their lives, and use their inordinate power to pass legislation that hinders industry and tourism, the secular community is building a country that can compete in the real world. Now they are attracting people to that country, using the country’s natural resources. I have no problem with the spread, and hope it is not blocked by the Knesset.

Posted by Scottage at 2:05 AM / | |