I went to a “meeting” in the local council building to “discuss” the “promotion” of “tourism” in our town last night. All these “”””””” “”” ” ” “”” have a purpose and I promise to explain.
Being an astute housewife, I realised very quickly that I had been lured there under false pretences purely to get bums on seats. (Or should I say tuches on seats?)
The “meeting” turned out to be a presentation pitched at promoting tourism to Israel. The people from the local council who hosted this, the ones who should be trying to get tourists HERE, are tragically bewildered about how towns make tourists come to them.
Do Sicilians know how to promote tourism?
For most of my life, I had thought Israel would be a very interesting place to visit, packed with history and emotive landscapes. Last night changed all that.
The “discussion” was a 90-minute slide show – by a Sicilian – of beaches lined with huge, ugly, modern hotels. I saw more photos of people enjoying discos than I care to recall. By the time I was seeing the fiftieth shopping street selling schlocky souvenirs, I was losing the will to live.
My one consolation was that this all took place in Palazzo Butera, the Baroque town council building. The room was lined from floor to ceiling with frescoes of chubby flying cherubs, heroes slaying dragons, Hercules swatting away low-flying cherubs while chopping off a couple of the Hydra’s snaky heads, snowy trompe l’oeil landscapes on the walls, and more naked little cherubs fluttering in and out among them all.
There were actually more bums on the ceiling than there were on the seats. I passed the time trying to count them.
Could I have done better myself?
I’ve never been to Israel, but I grew up close to Gants Hill in London, which I was told had one of the biggest Jewish communities in the world outside Israel. I know about Jewish stuff.
Sicilians should do, too. The Jews were the scribes and the polyglot interpreters in multicultural Sicily for centuries. They carried out many charitable works that kept the poorer classes alive. The Jews played a major role in shaping present-day Sicilian culture.
Lately, a lot of Sicilians are tracing their ancestry and finding out out it is partly Jewish. When the Spanish brought the Inquisition to Sicily many Sicilian Jews could not bear to leave and instead converted to Catholicism.
Why would Sicilians love Israel?
Food is not just nourishment to Jews and Sicilians, it is love. Having tucked into many a delicious plateful of kosher nosh, I can tell you Jewish Mommas give the Sicilians a serious run for their money.
“Better than a Jewish lunchbox” was an expression of high praise, used in my school to describe food that could be classified not just as cuisine, but as a banquet.
Spot the difference!
3. The bible
Come on, the bible actually happened in Israel. I defy any Sicilian not to get excited about that.
So anyway, did I manage to discuss promoting tourism here in Bagheria?
I tried. I accosted the mayor and the councillor for tourism and economic development. They talked about hiring out one of the villas as a wedding venue.
I tried to help them understand this will not bring a steady stream of tourism income to the town. This is the home town of Renato Guttuso and Cinema Paradiso. It has a gallery dedicated to them. Promoting tourism here would be a piece of cake.
“To promote tourism, you contact tour operators, foreign journalists, people who write tour guides, and all the tourist information offices,” I told them. “You make a city website that explains what’s on offer. You remember to OPEN your town’s art gallery each and every day!” Actually opening the galley is a problematic stumbling block round here.
Oy vey! If you want to know how well they seemed to understand what I was explaining to them, go and teach a gerbil how to solve Rubik’s cube.
Well that’s enough tourism talk from me. What shall I prepare for lunch? Gefilte fish, anyone? No, I’m afraid in this situation, only chicken soup will do.