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Eric and Margie Berg take community on a virtual trip to Israel with Jewish National Fund-USA

EAST LONGMEADOW — With the latest predictions suggesting Israel’s tourism industry could lose up to $1.16 billion due to the COVID-19 crisis, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) in Western Mass is helping Israeli tour guides through an innovative new ‘virtual travel’ initiative. 

In launching JNF Virtual Travel & Tours, the organization’s travel department is offering seats on virtual tour buses to some of Israel’s iconic and lesser-known travel destinations. Current itineraries include visits to the Old City of Jerusalem, Ayalon Institute, Akko, Be’er Sheva, and the JNF Sderot Indoor Recreation Center. 

“As many of us continue social distancing due to the pandemic, I think our community has gained a greater appreciation for the rich calendar of in-person communal events that we once had, and will continue to have, when life slowly returns to normal,” said Eric Berg, JNF-USA Southern New England Campaign Chair. “Naturally, people miss interacting with each other which is why I believe our virtual tour initiative has been so successful.”

The virtual buses include seating for up to 22 participants. Each bus also includes a licensed Israeli tour guide and a professional JNF-USA staff member. A $50 per “Zoom window” registration fee covers one hour of touring per day over the weeklong visit which takes place Monday through Thursday for two hours during the afternoon. The first hour is for touring and the second hour provides an opportunity to debrief and socialize with a cocktail in hand. On Friday, participants will experience a beautiful pre-Shabbat experience between 4-5 p.m. 

“We were delighted to lead our week-long tour of Israel because it enabled us to support Israel’s out-of-work tour guides while also providing our friends, family, and neighbors with an opportunity to connect with Israel and one another,” said Margie Berg. “I don’t think we could have anticipated how meaningful our virtual trip would be.” 

 To reserve a “seat” on a JNF-USA’s virtual tour, visit jnf.org/virtualtours. 

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