Prague 1 Jerusalem 0 in the Tourism Cup

Israel has a population of 7.5m people and hosts approaching 3m tourists every year. The Czech Republic boasts around 10m people, but entertains over 6.5 m tourists annually.

Both countries have much to offer travellers in order to grab hold of their spending money. However, they also have one unusual feature in common. Amazingly, Prague does it better.

Israel is the world centre of Judaism. The Wailing Wall is infamous. The Old City of Jerusalem is bursting at the seams during the Holy Festivals. As you walk around the city, you are surrounded by biblical and historical events that can link thousands of years in literally a few footsteps. New visitors never cease to be bemused.

And for all that, even if I was to stretch the stats, a little under 3m people come to see this celebration of Judaism every year.

Prague is a 3.5 hour flight away. It is known is the city of the 100 spires, a reference to the churches that decorate the sky line. It is a city where tourists come from all over Europe; Brits, Italians, all parts of Russia, and the rest.

And here’s the point. Prague is littered with tour companies wishing to take you on a different outings around the city. All offer a 3 hour tour of the Jewish Quarter, which dates back hundreds of years and which has survived the Nazis and the Communists.

The guides explain the history, the customs, the food, and the famous Jewish sons of the region, including Kafka, Moser, and numerous rabbis. The story of the Golem originates from Prague, and is recalled in Czech, Russian, Italian, Armenian, Chinese, Korean and many many many other languages.

In other words, more people are exposed to Judaism and its meaning in Prague than in the heart of the Holy Land. More than in Israel, it is in the Czech Republic that outsiders receive a first and positive impression about the Jewish people.

That has been going on for years. So why does it appear that nobody in Jerusalem is trying to copy this successful model?

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