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With local shops and artisanal businesses, stunning artwork, boutique wines, and scrumptious food, it is easy to see how Israel’s Western Galilee region was welcoming over 2 million tourists annually before the pandemic. And with the tourism industry employing 40% of the Western Galilee’s residents, the region is pinning its hopes on a swift post-pandemic recovery.
Supporting the region’s economic recovery is Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) through its Go North initiative. With the organization’s array of philanthropic investments in the region, JNF-USA is implementing its strategic vision in the north through Western Galilee Now, an initiative that has brought local small businesses together, giving them a united voice and an ability to coordinate promotional activities.
When the pandemic hit and tourism dwindled, JNF-USA opened its Online Mitzvah Marketplace (OMM), an online store that promotes and sells Israeli-made products, ranging from baked goods to crafts, helping keep businesses in the Western Galilee alive.
Western Galilee Now CEO Michal Shiloah Galnoor notes that the OMM was a lifeline when many small businesses needed one. “As much as the pandemic hurt people, the Online Mitzvah Marketplace gave our small businesses access to clients whom they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise,” she said. “And because of that, many were able to stay in business.”
The Western Galilee region suffered another setback in May 2021, when rioters looted the city of Akko, destroying small businesses and damaging property, including JNF-USA’s Western Galilee Tourist Information Center.
Immediately, the organization went to work, with students from its Frontier Israel program volunteering to clean up the area.
“Every day, those students were cleaning up rubble, making the area livable again,” said Galnoor. “It was inspiring to see these young men and women step up and make a difference.”
And now, JNF-USA is continuing its revitalization efforts on July 20 with a virtual tour of the Western Galilee — an exclusive online event exploring the art, culture, and beauty of the region.
Led by Galnoor, participants will meet local artists, small business owners, and experience the sights and sounds of this magnificent area. Attendees will also learn about the Western Galilee Tourist Information Center, located in the heart of Akko’s Old City, which has served as a gateway for information and discovery about hundreds of destinations throughout the Galilee and has been instrumental in fostering coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
“The Galilee region has an incredible blend of culture and history, and its ecosystem of small businesses, artists, and tourism is fascinating,” said Jewish National Fund-USA’s National Campaign Director Sharon Joy. “As the Galilee recovers from both the pandemic and the recent attacks, supporting this region is more important than ever.
“This event gives attendees a chance to enjoy all the Western Galilee has to offer from the comfort of their own home. JNF-USA understands the importance of revitalizing Israel’s North and making it a vibrant community where Israelis want to live, and the tour lets people see our successes on this front while also enabling them to continue supporting the land and people of Israel.”
As for Galnoor, she appreciates the exposure and hopes more people will support the slice of heaven she considers home.
“I love the Western Galilee with all of my heart,” she says. “I hope this virtual tour helps people see this region the way I see it: for its beauty, for its history, and for all of the amazing people I share my home with.”
To attend Jewish National Fund-USA’s virtual cultural journey and tour the Western Galilee, visit jnf.org/westerngalilee.