Neglect, Filth and Safety Hazards at Israel Tourism Sites

Irit Rosenblum
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Irit Rosenblum

Tourism sites are plagued with safety problems, neglect and poor maintenance, according to a report released on Wednesday by the State Comptroller's Office.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss examined tourist sites within the boundaries of various local authorities, and he criticized both the way the authorities handle the sites and the Tourism Ministry's methods of dealing with the local authorities.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.Credit: Gora Berger

The comptroller examined six cities with major tourism sites in their jurisdiction: Jerusalem, Safed, Nazareth, Acre, Tiberias and Ramle. The examination focused on sites the ministry has invested funds in developing over the years.

Lindenstrauss explained the importance of such sites to the Israeli tourism industry and noted that tourism is very important from an economic, social and cultural standpoint. He also said the local authorities' responsibility for such sites is based on a number of existing laws.

In Jerusalem, Lindenstrauss found dangerous problems with streets and sidewalks, as well as public parks filled with garbage and exposed electrical wiring. He also complained that signs were inadequate.

In Tiberias, the comptroller found the situation has improved since a reorganization of the city's tourism services in July 2009, but complained there were still many sites not under supervision, as well as many sites that needed serious work.

The comptroller said none of his complaints are new. Back in 2006, a report on Israeli tourism from international consulting firm Ernst & Young stated that such sites were poorly maintained and infrastructure was lacking. The finance and tourism ministries commissioned the report from Ernst & Young, and the Tourism Ministry adopted its conclusions.

As a result of the report, in 2007 the ministry set new rules for allocating funding for developing tourism infrastructure, including a requirement that any project include a commitment by the local authority to maintain it. But despite these new rules, Lindenstrauss found that the actual handling of such sites was still faulty.

Lindenstrauss concluded that the ministry must increase its supervision over the maintenance of sites, in accordance with the procedures the ministry itself has set. He recommended sanctions against local authorities that do not honor their commitments, and said the Tourism Ministry should act in conjunction with the Interior Ministry to help the localities improve their Internet sites to provide accurate and up-to-date information on tourist sites.

In Nazareth, the report said, the city has still not fixed many of the problems it promised to address, and local regulations are inadequate to guarantee cleanliness.

The conditions in Acre, Safed and Ramle were also quite poor, and sites were maintained at an extremely low level, if at all, Lindenstrauss said.