(May 21, 2020 / )As we approach Yom Yerushalayim, I can’t help but think of the powerful phrase, “L’Shanah Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim” (“Next year in Jerusalem.”)
The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc globally. The travel-and-tourism industry was one of the first, and most harshly hit industries. Thousands of families living all over the world just don’t know when they will be able to travel to Israel. Will they be able to take a relaxed vacation with their kids to Jerusalem? Or celebrate their upcoming bar/bat mitzvah or wedding in Jerusalem?
As the founder of Fun IN Jerusalem and Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahum’s adviser on English-speaking tourism, I think about this every day.
While Israel seems to be one of the first countries to be emerging from this global pandemic, we are doing so cautiously. Tourism is the life-blood of our beloved capital city. The Jerusalem tourism community, supported by Mayor Moshe Lion and Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahum, has adapted with remarkable speed and efficiency, and we are ready.
Museums, workshops, attractions, tour guides and party venues have brought Jerusalem alive and have found creative ways to adjust to the new requirements. Many locations now require advanced reservations to limit the number of visitors. Others are only opening their outdoor spaces.
What we have seen are local tourism providers finding new and innovative ways to reach the Jewish communities across the world. We know Jerusalem is in your hearts. It is our pleasure, in these unprecedented times, to bring Jerusalem into your homes.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation continues to run its popular Kotel Tunnel Tours, but this time the guides use Zoom and a 360-degree video to take virtual guests around the tunnels. Questions and answers are interactive when the guide can move around freely within the video.
The Biblical Museum of Natural History has a different approach. Rabbi Natan Slifkin is actually live in his brand new museum complex in Beit Shemesh, and he carries along his phone with him as he answers questions about reptiles, mammals and other animals mentioned in the Bible (Tanach).
The Zomet Institute in Gush Etzion, in its Zoom workshops, shares information about cutting-edge technology and Jewish Law, such as the new Shabbat IR Thermometer specifically created by Zomet for use in synagogues and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. With questions and answers and downloadable worksheets, they keep their audiences engaged.
Israel Scaventures took its popular Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts and pivoted them into virtual hunts by creating a Quarantine Quest – a scavenger hunt that can be played from homes around the world, using Israel- and Jerusalem-themed clues. If you can’t celebrate your bar/bat mitzvah in Israel, this is a great option to bring Israel to you.
What can we learn from these four examples? It is in fact a great message that turns a popular paradigm on its head. Since Israel’s founding, Diaspora Jews have displayed incredible commitment to the Jewish state. Now it is our turn to support you.
By sharing our unique content and educational resources, we already are!
I feel honored to be able to use my newly redesigned Fun In Jerusalem platform not only to inspire family fun when tourists are in Israel, but also to be a great resource to bring a piece of Israel into your homes worldwide.
Jerusalem is unique. It is a place that Jews across the world dream of visiting. It is a place in your heart, a place where you want to feel connected. I invite you to log in to Fun In Jerusalem during lockdown for a reminder of everything Jerusalem has to offer. We are honored to keep you connected to our special city during these difficult times and we look forward to welcoming you back to Jerusalem very soon. L’Shanah Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim!
Joanna Shebson is the founder of Fun In Jerusalem (www.funinjerusalem.com) and Party In Jerusalem (www.partyinjerusalem.com ). She made Aliyah from Los Angeles with her husband and kids in August 2007. She settled in Jerusalem and enjoys inspiring family fun!