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Teaching an Old City new tricks

by michael September 01 2008
Municipal newsThings to do
Just one of 2.8 million foreign tourists

Tourism is up in the Old City. Way up. And all it took was a thorough scrubbing.

The Company for the Development of East Jerusalem reported 28 percent growth in the number of visitors to the historical sites in and around the Old City's walls during the first six months of 2008.

"More Israelis have rediscovered Jerusalem this year and they visit it more frequently then they used to do in the past," Gideon Shamir, the company's director-general, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. 


Overseas visitors to Israel are set to reach a record 2.8 million in 2008, but Shamir attributes the growth in tourism to east Jerusalem to improved security and service and, of course, the historical interest of the sites, but more than anything to the progress in cleaning of the entire area within the walls.

"This project has been conducted for the past few months and only now we are starting to see its results. We hope it will be completed by the High Holy Days," he said.

"The company hired the services of a private contractor instead of the municipality's cleaning services. The contractor is in charge of replacing and improving facilities in the streets of the Old City, which is a complicated mission mainly because of the narrow streets, the bad sewage systems and the different cleaning habits among the residents and merchants there," Shamir said. 

It just goes to show: when you want something done right, hire a private contractor to do it. Even if it's the government's job. Especially if it's the government's job.

Specific Old City historical sites seeing heavy increases in visitor traffic this year include the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (143,967 visitors, up 24%), the Ramparts Walk (74,728, up 29%), and the new Zedekiah's Cave (15,549 visitors). No doubt the merchants of the chintzy Christian Quarter souk are thrilled - 2.8 million people can buy an awful lot of glow-in-the-dark crucifixes and Hebrew Coca-Cola T-shirts.

Now all we need is those contractors to move on to downtown.

Image of bantering next to the Old City's Lion's Gate courtesy of Silver Plated Boy from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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