Few destinations on earth heap so much history into such a small space as does Israel. The roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can be traced to a few holy spots on this country's map, places that have stood witness to both triumph and turmoil for thousands of years-and into the present day. A nation full of paradoxes and complexities, Israel offers visitors an experience that can be both sublime and raw.
To wander among the ancient trees of Gethsemane, the olive garden where Jesus is said to have prayed before being crucified; to stand at the Western Wall, symbol of the glory and the tragedy of Jewish history in Jerusalem; to look up at the gold Dome of the Rock, Islam's third-most sacred site-these are the things for which even the jaded traveler finds no comparison.
On the other hand, if service in Israel is efficient and adequate, it is still rather coolly delivered. And the sight of Israeli teenagers strolling by in army uniforms, huge black guns bouncing casually against their shoulder blades, reminds the visitor that Israel's tumultuous history continues to be written. (Meeting planners should address the security issue with attendees, perhaps more to establish the perception of safety than for the likelihood of an incident.)
Hyatt's Presence Grows Many places in Israel are as geographically significant as they are historically compelling. South of Jerusalem, for example, is the Dead Sea, some 1,300 feet below sea level-the lowest place on earth. Its salt concentration (ten times that of ordinary ocean water) and its richness in other minerals have made the Dead Sea a spa site since Roman times. The area's low pollution, weakened ultraviolet rays (since they have to cut through a "haze" of bromine and other gaseous elements over the sea), higher oxygen concentration, and mineral-rich water and mud are regularly credited with alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other respiratory and joint disorders.
With the opening of the new Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort & Spa, however, your qualifiers will know this as the place they read a newspaper while floating in a pool of heated, super-buoyant Dead Sea water; where they indulged in beauty, healing, and anti-stress treatments at the Mineralia Spa; and where the balconies of their spacious rooms looked out over the Dead Sea and the stark beauty of the Judean Mountains.
The resort's Grand Ballroom accommodates up to 800 guests; there is also a junior ballroom plus four meeting rooms seating up to 60 persons; and terraced restaurants offer outdoor venues for theme parties and receptions. Jeep tours through the desert to a sunset lookout over Jordan are a popular activity.
The 600-room (including 93 Regency Club rooms) Hyatt-the first foray of an international chain into the Dead Sea region-is the most luxurious of several hotel developments under way there, including a 260-room Hilton and a 350-room Holiday Inn. Some 2,600 rooms will be available in the area by 2000.
Back in Israel's historic and religious center, the Hyatt Regency Jerusalem has long welcomed religious groups from the U.S. In fact, they make up a majority of the hotel's business. A low structure built of the ubiquitous sand-colored Jeru- salem stone, the 600-room hotel blends into its site on Mount Scopus. Its ballroom seats 700 theater-style, and a large, fourth-floor terrace is ideal for evening events as the sun sets over the city.
Other magnificent sights: the ruins of King Herod's Palace at Masada near the Dead Sea and the charming northern city of Akko, on the Mediterranean.
El Al-The National Airline Flying on El Al's new 747-400s, with personal viewing screens even in coach, the 11-hour flight to Tel Aviv from New York is comfortable. Ask your El Al representative to provide you with copies of their engagingly written information booklet to send to attendees, who need to know, for example, that each one of them will be questioned for up to 30 minutes at check-in about themselves and their itineraries. El Al flies direct from many major cities.
English is the language of business in Israel, and is widely spoken. Sightseeing should be done with a reliable and knowledgeable guide. Highly recommended is Yakov Goldfine. Contact him through the Israel Ministry of Tourism.