New Internet site lets tourists plug into Jewish state

In the Information Age, you don't have to endure 15-hour airplane flights or spend $1,600 on fare to visit Israel.

Thanks to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, you may be more likely to suffer repetitive stress injury than airsickness experiencing the Holy Land.

And with the ministry's new site on the Internet's World Wide Web, you don't even have to get off your tush to stroll down Tel Aviv's trendy Dizengoff or behold Jerusalem's Western Wall.

"Tourism to Israel is online," says Uzi Michaeli, Israel's consul and commissioner for tourism in North America.

Any shlepper with a computer and modem can now study maps of Israeli cities, explore key sites, and get even more travel information, simply by clicking a mouse.

The Israel Tourist Guide offers the armchair traveler an electronic taste of the Jewish state. You can find color images of Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, and with accompanying text, learn that you can buy everything from shoes to VCRs there.

Or you can check out Tel Aviv's happening beaches, its luxury hotels and chic restaurants or rich art museums in the city's center (or, as this Web site spells it in the British mode, "centre").

The Israel Tourist Guide also, perhaps unintentionally, offers a bit of haimish Israeli flavor: the word "accommodation" is spelled "acomodation," and "pilgrimage" is spelled "pilgramage."

Lo chashuv (no matter), as Israelis say. You get the point, and by pointing at these words you get more information as well. Plus you quickly discover that in Israel, language sometimes loses something in the translation.

You can also vicariously experience the frustrations of daily Israeli living: Some of the links in the Web site never connect and you find yourself waiting for nothing to happen.

Zeh beseder, (that's OK), real Israelis often wait in lines in offices waiting for, well, about the same result.

But short of discovering that firsthand, here's the next best thing to being there. And there's no jet lag.

Just look for the address:

If plugging into Israel that route doesn't totally wire you, try some other Internet trips.

There's Virtual Jerusalem, for instance, a commercial Web site that is divided into neighborhoods, city services and links to other Jewish `Net scenes.

In its arts spot, you can scan areas on cinema, video and multimedia while an education area brings you to youth hostels and yeshivas. Or teen travelers can try the "Virtual Teenage Hangout," with stuff for adolescents — of course with music videos.

To get to Virtual Jerusalem, go to

Going to these Israel-centric sites may make you want to plunge into other electronic Jewish worlds. Just as there are three opinions for every two Jews, there are tons of Jewish Web sites for every Jew that can be reached via the Jewish Community Online area on American Online, the largest online service around. (The catch is you have to hook up with AOL).

Get on AOL, type the keyword "Jewish" and go. Nesiyah tovah (bon voyage)!