Let's Talk 2000

"The heartbeat of 2000 A.D. from cyberspace"

March 15, 1997, Volume 3, Issue 5, a bi-weekly bulletin

Topics covered in this issue:

The Millennium Doctor Speaks
News from the Field: Talk from the Forum: New Millennial Sites: Contact Information

The Millennium Doctor Speaks:
"Taking the pulse of 2000 A.D."

With Easter less than two weeks away, this issue of "Let's Talk 2000™." features Holy Land 2000™ news. Our lead feature reports on the appointment of Dr. Hanan Ashrawi as Commissioner of Bethlehem 2000.

Ashrawi is considered the most recognized and articulate voice in the Middle East peace process. She rose to fame during the 1991 Madrid peace conference by upstaging her Israeli counterpart, sound-bite master Bibi Netanyahu. TV audiences in the U.S. were wowed by this chain-smoking English literature lecturer, who seemed to put a human face on the plight of the Palestinians.

By appointing Ashrawi, it appears Arafat has cemented his long-standing intention to link "Peace on Earth" in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago to his struggle for peace with Israel by 2000. For a preview of the public poise and powerful rhetoric Ashrawi offers, check out http://www.mojones.com:80/mother_jones/MA93/amrani.html or download a movie clip from: http://www.oneworld.org:80/tve/medmedia/ashrawi.html

Meanwhile, the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians continues to escalate this week. With Israeli bulldozers posed to break ground tomorrow for a new Jewish settlement on the north side of Bethlehem, Arafat turned today to foreign diplomats to "save the peace process." He claimed the unilateral decision to build this Jewish neighbor of 6,500 in the West Bank was as a cover "to build hotels there in preparation for Bethlehem's year 2000 events, with the aim of replacing Bethlehem with the new settlement."

Like the Jerusalem tunnel episode of last September, Israeli military and bulldozers in south Jerusalem this week could be the prelude to more violence, which will further undermine plans to boost trade and tourism in the Holy Land as we approach 2000.

Our second feature looks at the Catholic central committee for the Great Jubilee 2000, which met this past week at the Vatican. Since January, in separate visits to the Vatican, both Netanyahu and Arafat have invited the pope to come to the Holy Land for 2000. Wisely, it appears the pope is holding off on his millennium travel plans until negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem move forward.

Meanwhile, up in Nazareth, the Israeli government has plans to pump up Nazareth as a millennial tourist attraction. Our "Talk from the Forum" posts a March/April 1996 Challenge magazine article, asking "Nazareth 2000: Who benefits?" The dynamics between Jews and Arabs is a bit different up in the Galilee, as Arabs are citizens of Israel. Rather than confrontation as in Bethlehem, there is a great deal of coordination between the Arab municipality and the government of Israel. But Challenge magazine's questions are well taken. Unfortunately, in a land where there is so much unrest between Arab and Jews, any millennium preparations run the risk of becoming politicized.

Our web section points to a recent full-length feature by a Jerusalem correspondent on the "Journey of the Magi 2000™." This five-month Magi mystery tour through the Middle East promises to arrive in Israel/Palestine by December 1999. It's being billed as the lead event of Holy Land 2000™, a 16-month festival to celebrate Christ's 2,000th jubilee. From what is happening right now in the Middle East, it appears their journey into the third millennium might be as fraught with darkness, doubt and dangerous kings as the trek the first Magi took.

I would be interested, especially from our Middle East readers, as to your response to any of our news features on the Holy Land. I remember a recent column giving a view of the millennium from the Arab world drew more response than anything in a long time. Feel free to post your impressions to 2000ad-l@usc.edu.

Our next issue takes a look at the "1,000 Days Till 2000" push. If you got news related to this or have a project which has tagged the April 6 milestone to the millennium, post us a note at 2000ad-l@usc.edu.

News from the Field:
"Here is the latest news on year 2000 efforts."

In a bid to retain European Union support for "Bethlehem 2000" commemorations, President Yasser Arafat recently appointed his Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, as commissioner of the international committee of Bethlehem 2000.

Upon her appointment in February, Ashrawi, a non-practicing Anglican, said that "Bethlehem 2000 will be a historical turning point for humanity." In addition to it's religious significance as Christ's jubilee, Ashrawi underscored its historic importance as the starting point for an independent Palestinian state in 1999, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Ashrawi indicated that Arafat has begun to form an international committee for "Bethlehem 2000," comprised of religious, political and intellectual leaders. These world leaders, including the pope, would be invited to join Arafat for the millennial celebrations in the city of Christ's birth.

Up until mid-January, "Bethlehem 2000" was comprised of three local area committees which had very little contact, plus a non-functioning ministrial commitee of the Palestianian Authority. Bethlehem locals hope this reorganization, sealed with Ashrawi's appointment, might reflect a shift from "political" to "professional" decision-making in millennium preparations.

Ashrawi promptly signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), delivering US$ 59,000 of a $200,000 grant to the "Bethlehem 2000" committee. This steering committee will carry out the social, cultural and technical activities, in addition to the renovations of Manger Square and other projects in Bethlehem, in preparation for the 3rd millennium celebrations.

Ashrawi is the author of the 1995 Simon and Schuster book, This Side of Peace, which offers an insider's account of the secret channels of negotiations which led to the Oslo peace accords, as well as the challenges her people now face in their struggle to build a viable homeland. Source: talk2000@rmii.com.

The Roman Catholic central committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 held its third general assembly at the Vatican this past week. French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray opened the session on March 11th. The assembly looked at the activity of various national committees, the work plans of its various commissions for this next year and a review of the schedule of Catholic celebrations to welcome the third millennium.

Highlights of the work towards the Great Jubilee 2000 over the past year include:
--the formation of national jubilee committees in more than 100 countries around the world.
--the release of the "Jubilee Year 2000" logo on five continents.
--the roll out of the full-color, quarterly "Tertium Millennium" magazine by the Mass Media Committee. (subscriptions for 1997 are US $30, Comitato Centrale del Grande Giubileo dell' Anno 2000, Piazza della Citta 9, 00193, Rome, Italy).

Since A.D. 1300, Catholics have celebrated twenty-five Holy Years, usually at quarter-century marks. None of them, however, have witnessed such a concerted effort as compared to the preparations for the 2,000th jubilee of Christ. For more information, the European wing of the Artistic/Cultural Commission has opened a Holy Year Catholic web site: http://www.europart.it/jubilaeum/jubilee.html. Source: talk2000@rmii.com.

Talk from the Forum:
"Here is a recap of recent conversations"

by Michal Schwartz

As Christian cities prepare for the second millennium anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism is in the process of adopting a grand project entitled "Nazareth 2000." This project, if approved, would prepare Nazareth to compete with Rome for the expected wave of Christian tourism. Naturally, it has inspired great expectations among citizens of Nazareth, the only Arab city in the country, whose story to this day does not differ from that of any other Arab village or town in Israel.

Believed to be the city where Jesus spent his youth, few cities can match Nazareth for tourism potential. Yet for tourists, guides, and bus drivers alike, an actual visit to Nazareth is known to be one big nightmare. The lack of roads and parking lots compels travelers to begin and end their tour with a quick visit to the Church of the Annunciation, where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, Gabriel brought Mary the tiddings of Jesus' imminent birth.

City infrastructure in Nazareth is practically non-existent; there are no sport or recreation centers; the main commercial road is perpetually blocked by traffic jams; and the city's "industry" consists of nothing more than a few garages and sweatshops sprawled across 70 dunams [1 dunam= 1/4 acre] at the city's center. For visitors, there are only five B-grade hotels (400 rooms each) and five hostels (150 rooms each). Most tourists, therefore, prefer to stay at the well-developed resort in nearby Tiberias.

The neglect of Nazareth has been part of a continued policy to suppress economic development of Arab-populated areas, Moslem and Christian alike, while government resources are generously channeled into development of Jewish cities to foster the "Judaization of the Galilee." In the late fifties the government confiscated thousands of dunams from Nazareth and surrounding Arab villages for the construction of (Jewish) Upper Nazareth, established in 1963. During the Gulf War in 1991, an additional 7,300 dunnams were annexed to Upper Nazareth from the neighboring villages of Reineh, Kuft Kanna, Mashehad, and Ein Mahel; of those, 1,128 dunams were confiscated.

The result today, with a population of 60,000, Nazareth is still confined to a master city plan adopted in 1942. Designed during the British Mandate, this plan is fit for a population of no more than 20,000. The Nazareth municipality more recently presented a detailed request for $167,000 over five years of development, government response to this request has been indefinitely delayed.
"Nazareth 2000," however, is meant to change all of this and turn the deteriorating city into one of the jewels in Israel's crown of tourism.

The idea is to use the date 2000 to boost the development of Nazareth was put forth in the early nineties by the cities late mayor, Tawfiq Ziad, and his deputy, Ramez Jeraisi. The project, entitled "Jesus in the Year 2000," was prepared by municipal experts and presented to the (then Likud) government in 1991. The plan aroused Labor's interest as a vehicle to win Arab votes in the 1992 elections; promises to implement the plan would win Nazareth's support. By verbally promoting this project, Labor convinced Ziad's party (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) to pledge its support for Labor should Labor come into power. In addition, the project complimented Labor's understanding of tourism as one of the world's most prosperous future industries.

The Importance of Tourism
Globally, the tourism industry has reached a profit of $3.4 trillion. The total number of tourism workers worldwide is 212 million. The projected rise over the next decade is to 338 workers with a profit of $8.2 trillon. Israel too is competing for its share in the bonanza. On July 23, 1995, the Israeli government decided to invest $4.5 billion in tourism over the next ten years. The expected four million tourists each year would bring an annual income of $2.3 billion, turning tourism into Israel's biggest export.

It is not surprising that Nazareth is meant to play a central role in these plans. Every year, some 850,000 tourists (half of all tourists in Israel) pass through the city. In the year 2000, 2.1 million tourists are expected to visit Nazareth. Preparing for the underdeveloped city to accommodate such an influx necessitates a big investment.

The late Prime Minister Rabin was well aware of the importance of tourism, both economically and politically. "Ha'aretz (24.8.94) quoted him as saying that "tourism helps to make Israeli policy understood by the international public," while Peres added that "tourism will be one of the most important elements in making the peace policy effective, alongside with agriculture and industry."

These considerations were elaborated upon by David Harnick, General Director of the Israeli Governmental Tourism Company, and director of "Nazareth 2000." In an interview with "Challenge" (22.10.95), he confided that "there is strong competition between Nazareth and the Europeans holy cities over the year 2000 tourists, and Israel is racing time to assure its profit. We estimate our income from tourism in the coming decade to be a billion dollars."

Government controls planning
The initial purpose of the 2000 plan was to stimulate local development and openings in the Arab private sector. Soon after its proposal, however, the project was given the "bear hug" of Israel's Ministry of Tourism. The name was changed to "Nazareth 2000," and David Harnik (of the Ministry of Tourism) was appointed project director. Nazareth's acting mayor Ramez Jeraisi is the only Arab on the managerial committee, the rest of which consists of representatives from the ministries of Housing, Interior, Transportation, the Israel Land Authority and the Bureau of the Prime Minister (otherwise known as the Secret Security.) Given the green light in 1993, "tourism studies were conducted, plans were submitted, steering committees established and task forces assembled. By 1994, the finishing touches were put on the overall tourism plan." (From "Eretz," the Israeli Geographic Magazine, August 1995).

Control over project funds was thus taken out of municipal hands and placed in the hands of various ministries represented in the managerial committee. If the project is approved, the government will invest $96 million in Nazareth over the next four years. (According to municipality spokesperson Ramzi Hakim, government approval was stalled during Rabin's period in office, but David Harnik was very optimistic that Nazareth 2000 will be adopted in January 1996).

If the ministries control the budgets, they also control who is hired for city projects. Primary work has already begun, and the budget money is going primarily to outside Jewish architects and contractors; even the artists designing trilingual road signs for Project 2000 are Jewish Israelis. When asked about the dearth of Arab professionals in the project, David Harnik responded that "we chose our people according to professional, not national criteria."

With so much money flowing outside the city, the meager sum actually reaching the Nazareth municipality cannot cover project expenses, and at present, the 2000 project only adds to the existing financial burden. In October, 1995, a municipal Arabic publication titled Al-Nastra ran the following headlines: "Ministry of Interior evades giving grants, avoids allocating development budgets for all but roads, leading to budget crisis"; "Municipality declares financial emergency, cuts all expenses to minimum..."

Municipality spokesperson Hakim explains that Nazareth 2000 would cost at least $166 million for road development only, whereas development of the city as a tourist center would necessitate at least $332 million. At the moment, the municipality must finance the project from its shrinking development budget (23 million shekels for 1995), because the government budget for road development is not sufficient. "There is one thing we cannot do," he adds. "No matter how hard we try, we cannot postpone the year 2000. If the government doesn't approve Nazareth 2000 in the near future, the whole project could go down."

Economic & Geographic suffocation
Not only is the Nazareth municipality in dire straits but private Arab investors are finding themselves shut out of the project entirely. The plan pending government approval anticipates an additional investment of some $130 million by the private sector. The problem, as Hakim puts it, is that "nowhere in the country can one find Arab investors with enough money to compete for a place here." In fact, the few native Nazarene investors who are building hotels are forced to seek out Jewish partners with capital. In the private sector as well, investors are chosen "by professional, not national criteria." Thus the division of labor is clear: Nazareth natives own the land, while outside investors own the capital and will gain most of the profit. Such is the situation in Har Kfitsa, a large compound at the southern entrance to Nazareth, where the Israeli Land Authority has approved the construction of 1,000 hotel rooms in cooperation with "Africa-Israel Estate." Wadi Tanous (a Nazarene partner), and French-owned Novotel.

But when Tanous proposed to build a mall/commercial center inside Nazareth, he was rejected by the Ministry of the Interior. The reason is clear to all: not long ago, Upper Nazareth completed a huge mall replete with shops, cinemas, discotheques, etc. This mall was built not in Upper Nazareth but on the border of Nazareth's city center, on land confiscated from Nazareth and annexed to Upper Nazareth. Because of its location, the majority of the mall's customers are Arab Nazarenes. Two things are obvious here: firstly, Arab customers from Nazareth are being co-opted by Upper Nazareth business, and secondly, unlike Nazareth, Upper Nazareth has pull in the Interior Ministry, where city planning projects are approved.

In 1995, the Ministry of the Interior rejected a proposal to construct a central bus station in Nazareth. Today, public transportation passes through the Arab city, but the central bus station is located in Upper Nazareth. The same ministry also rejected a project initiated by the Nazareth municipality for foreign investment in a new hotel. Meanwhile, Upper Nazareth is constructing three new hotels (1220 rooms altogether) without any obstacles from the Interior. Says a source in the Nazareth municipality, "this is a policy of economic suffocation of Nazareth for the benefit of Upper Nazareth."

Even more disquieting is the huge municipality building being constructed in Upper Nazareth (6,000 square meters, $5 million), the size of which is totally disproportionate to the town's population of 42,000. The location right on the Nazareth border (not far from the mall), and adjacent to another menacing construction: a $33 million judicial center being built by the Ministry of Justice, for all levels of courts, on a compound of 20 dunams. Until now, judiciary services had been located in Nazareth, a district capital since the British Mandate.

With government encouragement, Upper Nazareth saw unprecedented growth over the last four years. Because of Russian immigration, its population has increased by 70% (25,000 - 43,000 people) and is still growing. Engineer Yusef Marjia believes that "the construction of such a disproportionately huge municipality for a city of this size on the border of Nazareth, and the transferring of governmental buildings from Nazareth to Upper Nazareth point to a long range plan: when Upper Nazareth reaches a population of 100,000 it will annex Nazareth into its municipal borders."

No new priorities
Whoever has visited Nazareth with its beautiful churches, Eastern markets, Arab buildings and the breathtaking view form its hills knows that it can easily turn from a deteriorating town into a jewel of tourism; it would only take a change of priorities from the government, which has done its best so far to develop Upper Nazareth at Nazareth's expense. Unfortunately, however, the "Nazareth 2000" project has not empowered the Nazareth municipality; on the contrary, it is in fact run by the Labor party, through the Ministry of Tourism. Furthermore, Labor has transformed the project into a propaganda tool in its quest for Arab votes.

This, plus unprecedented government investment in the geographic expansion of Upper Nazareth, has re-ignited old fears that Arab Nazareth will be annexed by Jewish Israelis. Nazarenes fear that their city will become an Israeli tourist site, the way Jaffa has become a Tel Aviv tourist resort and the Palestinian Old City of Jerusalem has been annexed and swallowed by Israeli Jerusalem. Their fears are not without foundation; such intentions were explicitly expressed in as far back as 1976 by Yisrael Koenig, former District Commissioner of the North, and have since been adopted by Menahem Ariav, present (Labor) mayor of Upper Nazareth.

Nazareth, the city which voiced Palestinian democratic and national demands after the establishment of the Democratic Front of Nazareth in 1977, is becoming a bonus to Israeli and foreign investors, while Nazareth Arabs are becoming a cheap labor force in the Israeli Tourism industry. While some Arabs are getting a few crumbs, the majority, relegated to the realm of tourist "folklore," are losing their only city in Israel. If this is the price that Arabs in Israel must pay for their trust in the Labor party, and for the illusion that Labor has ceased to implement racist programs, it is indeed a very heavy price.
Copyright 1996 by Challenge Magazine. Posted with permission.

Challenge is a Jerusalem-based bimonthly English-language magazine written by Israelis, Palestinians and others, for the international community concerned with a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Challenge is an independent, nonpartisan publication which advocates a two-state solution to the conflict. Annual Subscription rates: US $30, UK 20, or local NIS 75. Checks in these currencies can be made payable to: Challenge, P.O. Box 4199, Jaffa 61411, Israel. Telephone and fax: +972-2-792270.
E-mail: chall@baraka.org

New Millennial Sites:
"Here are new sites in cyberspace"

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI 2000™: A pilgrimage of peace in the Middle East™
Here is a San Francisco Examiner feature on how a California professor is tackling barriers to millennial re-enactment of the Middle East journey which launched the first millennium.

NCCB 2000:The U.S. Catholic web site of the Jubilee Year 2000
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Conference have opened an official web site on the preparation for and celebration of the Jubilee Year in the United States. News, documents and program descriptions are included.

Contact Information:
"Your link to the third millennium"

Talk 2000 Forum Home Page: http://hcol.humberc.on.ca/talk2000.htm
Talk 2000 Newsgroup: bit.listserv.2000ad-l

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Publisher: Robin Wainwright
Editor: talk2000@rmii.com
Jay Gary, aka The Millennium Doctor
author, The Star of 2000
(719) 636-2000 Phone
Publication keywords: media, millennium, events
This issue of "Let's Talk 2000" is copyright © 1997 by Bimillennial Press, Inc.
All rights reserved. LET'S TALK 2000 is a trademark of the Magi corporation.