Israeli News Media Tour Oswego

OSWEGO, NY – They were thousands of miles away from home. But they felt a unique connection – a bond of friendship and family.

Several members of the Israeli news media took a familiarization tour today (May 13) to promote New York State’s Erie Canal communities.

Kay Tours, a tour operator based in Tel Aviv, Israel, hosted the project.

Elizabeth Kahl of the Safe Haven Board, left, talks about Oswego's Safe Haven with a group of Israeli news media on Thursday afternoon.
Elizabeth Kahl of the Safe Haven Board, left, talks about Oswego's Safe Haven with a group of Israeli news media on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday’s portion of the five-day (May 11 – 15) tour brought the international visitors to the Port City, and the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center.

The museum highlights the story of the nearly 1,000 refugees who were given safe haven from the Holocaust. Oswego’s was the only such facility in the world.

“The refugees’ story should be kept alive because this (Holocaust) should never happen again – to anyone,” said Elizabeth Kahl of the Safe Haven Board. “This should not be permitted to ever happen again to anyone.”

Going through the many exhibits and displays at the museum brought back memories of their families, the visitors noted.

“Almost everybody in Israel has somebody who was lost during the Holocaust,” one of them pointed out.

Kahl said she believes it also gave them a sense of hope.

Here was one city that had the equivalent of one-tenth of its population thrust upon them,” she said. “They managed it. It wasn’t governments. The government brought them over but it was the people inside the fence in the camp and the people outside the fence; the Oswego people accepted them. They became friends.”

Many of the refugees were invited into the homes of Oswegonians, she pointed out.

“The refugees would return the favor by putting on plays, operas and things like that,” she said. “So, I think it gave them a sense that the United States was not as seemingly indifferent.”

There are still some former refugees living in Israel, she added.

The tour was organized by the I Love New York marketing team and county tourism promotion agencies.

Some members of the Israeli news media check out the displays inside the Safe Haven Museum on Thursday.
Some members of the Israeli news media check out the displays inside the Safe Haven Museum on Thursday.

Taking part in the tour were Mr. Assaf Yaari, Yedioth Daily Newspaper; Mr. Blich Mei, Marriv Daily Newspaper; Mrs. Orna Nenner, Laisha Magazine; Mrs. Saari Birron-Raz, Israel Broadcasting Authority; Mr. Adi Azoulay, Passport News; Mr. Avi Kaptzan, President, Kay Tours; Mr. Danny Saadon, Vice President, El Al Airline; and Mr. Markly Wilson, Director of International Marketing, New York State Division of Tourism.

The group of journalists (TV, newspaper and magazine), tour directors and travel officials say they want to learn more about New York’s tourist spots, other than just the big cities.

“We love it. We’re having a very good time,” said Saadon. “The hospitality has been fantastic everywhere we’ve been to.”

Usually, when people from his country visit America, they go east (to New York City) or west (to Las Angeles), he noted.

“What we want to do is promote this part of New York as well. It would be an interesting site for Israelis to come to,” he told Oswego County Today.

They landed at Newark Liberty International Airport at about 5 a.m. May 11 and have been spending 12 hours a day touring places like Albany, Waterford, Rome, the locks along the Erie Canal and much more, he said.

From Oswego, they will head west to Fair Haven and then Rochester.

The towns and villages that they have seen along their travels have “been maintained in a beautiful way,” Saadon said. “You can feel the atmosphere, it’s very interesting.”

His company works with the tourism offices in a lot of different countries. Recently, they were approached by the NYS Tourism Office.

“They asked us if we were interested in coming to upstate New York. And we said yes, we’d love to. We’re enjoying every minute of it.”

Kaptzan said his company has been considering for quite a while how it could promote more tourism to upstate.

“Usually clients arrive in New York (City) and that is their final stop,” he said. “Two years ago we started to promote this area; there has been an increase in demand to come to this area, cities like Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, Ithaca, etcetera. We decided to have the media come and help promote this as a destination.”

When most people in his country think of the United States, they think of only the mass production cities, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami and that’s it, he explained.

“But, if you travel one and a half hour outside of the big cities, you find a totally different world,” he said. “The hospitality is there. There is more warmth, the people are more welcoming.”

It is important for them to educate people about that, he added.

“There is a whole different America. It’s not just New York City. It’s upstate as well,” Kaptzan said. “It will be brought to the tourist knowledge that there is a different New York. It’s not just only New York City, it’s New York State.”

“We were delighted and surprised that they would stop here,” Kahl said of the tour. “In the United States, this was the only camp of its kind, there was no other camp. It’s a unique story and we think it’s worth preserving.”

“Oswego is an historic city. The fort is historic, Lake Ontario is historic and this is one of the last and most poignant stories of the fort, the use of the fort,” Kahl said. “And, it has international significance.

It was primarily, but not all, Jews that came to Oswego’s Safe Haven, Kahl said.

“Eighty-nine percent of the people who came were Jewish. The other 11 percent were of all different faiths,” she pointed out. “They came from 18 different countries and spoke 16 different languages.”

The common language was Italian, because they had all managed to get from their countries into Italy, she explained.

Besides the museum, the H. Lee White Marine Museum and Fort Ontario were also on the visitors’ schedule.

Stories of their visit might entice many more foreign travelers to stop in the Port City in the future.

1 Comment

  1. With the I LOVE NY tourism campaign on the threatened chopping block, so good to hear that maybe we in Oswego can be promoted through international tourism groups. The Governor’s Office is trying to curb unnecessary spending, but I believe he is missing the big picture. The losses in revenue affect many areas, and will no doubt hurt property taxes in a major way. In Colorado, where their tourism ad campaign was shelved, within three years property taxes went up $500.00 PER PROPERTY. I don’t think the very much economically depressed upstate NY can afford any more increases. It costs more to live in NYS where there are fewer job opportunities, but also fewer natural disasters (too), than in places which are a great deal more attractive such as Florida/Alabama/and especially, the Carolinas. Yet, NYS elected officials don’t seem to understand that with few jobs to pay the taxes, we NEED outside revenue to help us pay the cost(s) of running this state!

    In doing recent taxes we figured out that we are paying $5,000 more to do business than when we made our investment in Oswego ten years ago. That is $5,000.00 that we thought would be our profits, not be siphoned off into the government coffers for spending that does not help our business in the least!

    Deborah Engelke
    Small Business Owner

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