Settlers in Judea and Samaria are using millions of shekels in contributions they received to launch a public relations campaign promoting tourism to the region as well as encouraging a more positive overall attitude toward settlers and settlements there.
The advocacy campaign, dubbed Mishkefet, is targeted at Israelis, encouraging them to "get to know their land" and see Israel "with their own eyes." Palestinians have engaged in public relations work for a long time now ahead of their upcoming statehood bid at the U.N. in September. Mishkefet is the settlers' answer to that.
The campaign's target audience is secular and traditional (non-Orthodox) Jews who are neither staunchly right-wing or firmly leftist. Millions of shekels were donated to the project, whose leaders hope to bring 500,000 tourists to Judea and Samaria within five years.
In recent months, more than 40 guided tours have been conducted for unions, high-tech companies, organizations, political parties, schools and youth programs. "We believe these tours will serve as a tie-breaker in Israeli public opinion," said Yosi Dagan, co-director of the project. "Anyone who travels in the area will see that it would not be a small matter to remove people. All kinds of people reside here: religious, ultra-Orthodox and secular people."
Participants in the tours are shown beautiful views, Biblical sites, factories and enterprises. They also witness the fabric of relations between settlers and Palestinians up close. Mishkefet organizers point out that their tours are subsidized, with the costs involved stemming from the price of travel in bulletproof buses.