Israel's new tourism minister Yariv Levin (Likud) held his first working meeting Saturday evening, notably choosing to host Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and CEO Shlomi Wormstein at his Jerusalem office.
The meeting focused on ways to promote the large number of tourism and heritage sites in Israel's Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, where political considerations have meant that an area rich in both historical and modern tourist attractions is often looked over by travelers.
However, recent years have seen a boom in tourism to Judea and Samaria – particularly domestic tourism – amid a push by regional councils and local businesses to promote the area to their fellow Israelis.
Dagan shared those figures with Levin, and noted the wide variety of popular attractions in Samaria, including nature reserves, vineyards, award-winning wineries, restaurants and seasonal attractions which draw thousands of Israelis on festivals and during the summer.
Concluding the meeting, Levin pledged to "place Samaria on the map."
"I have no doubt that Samaria will be on the global tourism map," he declared. "We are talking about a region that has so much to see, and is deeply tied to our heritage and history."
"I am convinced that we will see, with the cooperation of all sides – including the Tourism Ministry and the (Samaria) Council – a steadily growing movement of tourism to Samaria."
The minister further vowed to grant Samaria – a site he said was crucial to Jewish heritage – all "the attention it deserves."
Dagan in response hailed Levin as "a minister permeating not just with ideology but also with ability and understanding."
Asserting that the fact that Israel's global tourism industry had tended to overlook Judea and Samaria was a source of "great regret," Dagan expressed confidence that "this (Knesset) term can improve the existing situation."
"Tourism is not just a significant economic anchor, for Samaria and for the entire country, but a way in which the State of Israel can bring the entire world to really know the State of Israel and our rights to the land via trips to sites from the Bible, with an emphasis on Judea and Samaria," Dagan continued.
"We were very impressed by the attention to detail… and we hope that in this term we will continue the progress made during the previous years, amplify it, and bring one million tourists to Samaria every year."