Kerala takes part in IMTM, to tap tourism potential of Israel

Jew street, Mattancherry

Kochi: For the first time in its history, Kerala Tourism participated in the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

With this, Kerala Tourism is foraying into the largely untapped Israeli market to increase footfalls from the Middle- East.

Director of Kerala Tourism P Bala Kiran, led the state delegation to the two-day event which concluded Thursday.

The IMTM is the largest annual professional tourism fair of its kind in eastern Mediterranean and the official and only professional exhibition for the tourism trade market in Israel.

 To mark the occasion, Kerala Tourism launched a sleek and glossy coffee-table book, the first-of-its-kind visual odyssey of the Jews who decided to make Kerala their home before several of the diasporic community returned to Israel, their fatherland, a press release said.

 The book was formally launched by Indian Ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor, who also visited the Kerala stall at the event.

Expressing happiness over the debut of Kerala Tourism at the IMTM, Tourism Minister Kaakampally Surendran said it was a successful outing for the tourism in the state.

"In the highly competitive global marketplace, we need to scout for new source from markets abroad to attract tourists. Our participation in a prestigious event like IMTM will act as a trigger to meet that objective," he said.

The minister said there is a direct flight from Tel Aviv, the second most populous city in Israel, to Delhi and Mumbai.

"Now, a new direct flight will be launched by Arkia Israeli Airlines from Tel Aviv to Kochi in September, which will be a major boost to tourism in India in general and Kerala in particular, he added.

Tourism secretary Rani George said the participation of Kerala in IMTM was part of a campaign of its tourism department to woo visitors from non-traditional markets.

"We have already made our presence felt in Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Forging strong ties with the tourism segment of Israel will open new vistas of expansion for Kerala Tourism in that region," she noted.

Kerala was visited by 15,339 Israeli tourists in 2018, an increase of 29 per cent as compared to 11,892 in 2017 and 10,922 in 2016, while it registered a surge of over 15 per cent in terms of tourist arrival from that country during 2013-18.

Bala Kiran said the visit yielded extremely positive outcome.

 "We've held a series of discussions with various stakeholders of the tourism and hospitality industry of Israel, and it would pave the way for two-way visits from Kerala and Israel," he added.

Kochi, formerly Cochin, was one of the oldest Jewish settlements on Asian soil, which had a larger Jewish community than New York and surpassed it not only numerically, but also culturally.

The Cochin Jewish community in 1792 had about 2,000 Jews and nine synagogues of considerable antiquity while New York had only 72 Jewish families and only one synagogue, he said.

The coffee-table book, aptly titled 'One Heart, Two Worlds  The Story of The Jews of Kochi,' brings alive the riveting real-life account of the Jewish community in Kochi, their hearts caught between a deep love for their adopted motherland India, and a 2000-year-long yearning of the Jews across the world to return to their fatherland.

The book, published by Stark World Publishing, has been chronicled by scholar and historian Dr K S Mathew and creative director and writer Yamini Nair.

The incisively researched book dives deep into the life and times of the Jews of Cochin, their distinctive faith, culture, history and dreams.

With less than 30 Jews remaining in Kochi presently, Bala Kiran said the need to document the Jewish diaspora, who co-existed peacefully in the socio-cultural fabric here and were welcomed by the kings, acquires an immediacy and timeliness.

Featuring nearly 200 exquisitely shot and vintage images from private collections and museum archives, the book takes the reader on a visual journey of the rain-swept seashores of Kerala, past the olive-tree dotted landscapes in Israel.

Quintessential Jewish ceremonies, vibrant celebrations, prayers, fasts, regional kosher recipes, Hebrew-Malayalam song books and symbolic interpretations, leading up to life during and after 'Aliyah' - the immigration of diasporic Jews to Israel form part of the book's narrative.

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