QUARANTINE - DAY 32 - 6th April 2020
As we enter Holy Week, Hani Abu Dayyeh, President of NET (Near East Tourist agency) shares some thoughts on the significance of Easter in the region and reports on how the tourism industry in the Holy Land has been affected:
Good Afternoon from quarantined Beit Jala.
We are in Lent season in preparation for Easter. Lent is traditionally a time of penance. Lent also is a time to remind ourselves to foster simplicity and self-control. The global upheavals caused by the Coronavirus during Lent season should remind us of these basic historical practices of simplicity and self-control through this global pandemic.
The root word 'east', which lies in "Easter", is steeped in the symbolism of the cycle of the sun, which rises in the East, and which in spring fondles the natural world to life. In the Northern hemisphere, the spring equinox occurs on the 21st of March, when the length of the day increases. The sun, growing in power, finally overtakes darkness.
The events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection are remembered during our Holy Week, which leads up to Easter Sunday, also referred to as Resurrection Sunday.
In this same spirit of Easter, we from Jerusalem pray for all of us worldwide and specifically in the tourism industry, that the darkness of this Coronavirus pandemic is overtaken and our tourism industry will also have its own resurrection.
Now let us look at the ramifications of this cursed virus. This Coronavirus really did some damage to our tourism industry and certainly to the Bethlehem region which is so highly dependent on tourism.
This really has taken its toll on the travel industry worldwide as well. The issue is how do we deal with these events while they are happening with the employees and other service providers.
At NET, we have a few hundred employees and their families who are dependent on us. Multiply this over the millions of other business entities worldwide and one can but imagine the trillions of dollars lost worldwide to our industry and the other related ancillary services.
Bethlehem, and we, the Palestinian tourism industry, will recover. I can tell you that our religious tourism industry is highly resilient. I have experienced this in our region several times over the years and it always did bounce back. But we do have a lot of work to do to help revive tourism quickly, even as this issue is resolving itself.
We had Coronavirus cases here in the Bethlehem area and the whole of Bethlehem is under quarantine. A group from Greece was infected and spread it to the workers at a hotel in Beit Jala. One of our drivers who was with them was in hospital, and was put into isolation and under a three-day induced coma to accelerate his healing. Everyone who was in contact with him was placed in self-quarantine, and thankfully did not contract the virus. We ask everybody to pray for him and his family.
This whole thing makes a person reflect on the fragility of this world of ours. We are definitely living in a globalized world. What happens in China economically is affecting us all. Now this Coronavirus is being globalized and is affecting the health and economies of several countries. Those of us who are dependent on tourism feel this most directly and most acutely.
In a Euro Mediterranean Ministers of Tourism conference held in Germany, I had the opportunity to make a small intervention about the issues of Peace and Justice. I said that these two concepts are organically linked, and it starts with us as individuals.
We must seek justice for oneself so that we can be at peace within oneself.
We must seek justice within one's family, so that we have peace within one's family.
We must seek justice within a nation so that we have peace within the nation
We must seek justice between nations so that we have peace between nations.
We must seek justice between religions so that we have peace between religions
We must seek justice with the environment so that we are at peace with the environment.
We must seek justice between generations so that we have peace across generations.
When Christ was asked which is the most important, Love, Peace, Justice or Charity, he said that Love was the most important. One might also surmise that we will also need charity for all God's creations to accomplish a holistic and global approach to the issue of this potential pandemic.
In this globalized world of ours, we are witnessing the negative effects felt globally, in health, in economic dislocation, and environmental degradation. As a shared humanity we are all facing these calamities. I hope we as a shared humanity can learn to work together to alleviate the consequences.
In the end, I would like to wish you and your families the very best of all the important things in life and under the circumstances including health.