By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Ilanit Melchior, tourism director for the City of Jerusalem, made her way to the Metroplex last week to recruit churches and faith-based communities to host conferences and conventions there over the next couple of years.
Melchior was the first Israeli representative to attend the annual, Nov. 2-4 Rejuvenate Marketplace faith-based trade show at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas.
Subsequently, a Wednesday, Nov. 4 Rejuvenate Marketplace lunch went quite well for Melchior — in terms of recruiting some of the conference people and conventioneers she was seeking.
While showing visuals and videos of Jerusalem, Melchior spoke to over 900 travel and conference professionals in that ballroom lauding Israel and Jerusalem as the most unique destinations for faith-based conferences.
She ended up with appointments with over 50 conference planners and Christian representatives.
Her presentation even caught the attention of keynote speaker Lisa Whelchel, best known for her role as Blair Warner on NBC’s The Facts of Life.
Whelchel spoke very highly of Melchior’s presentation.
“I did hear Ilanit speak and I thought she did an amazing job,” Whelchel wrote in an emailed statement. “Very funny. And compelling. And, I noted to myself what an excellent job she did inviting the meeting planners to organize events in Jerusalem.”
Allies also found in churches
Recruiting the Christian community for conferences and conventions makes perfect sense, Melchior said, because Christians have remained side-by-side with Israel during many difficult times.
“What would be more natural than bringing their conferences to the Holy City?” Melchior said Nov. 3.
Patrick Higgins, vice president of Collinson Media’s (organizer of the event) marketplaces, said it was an honor to have Melchior there.
“We appreciate having her — not only as an attendee, but a sponsor of our Wednesday general session with Lisa Whelchel,” Higgins wrote in an email.
Melchior’s trip came at an unfortunate time — given the surge of terrorist stabbings, shootings and car attacks that has erupted in Jerusalem in recent weeks.
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, that wave of terrorist attacks began on the Temple Mount and in East Jerusalem and later spread to Judea and Samaria. It even crossed the Green Line into Israel under the battle cry of “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger.”
Melchior declined to discuss that situation.
“I can’t talk about what’s happening in Jerusalem,” she said.
Instead focusing on the mission in Dallas, Melchior said the important message she had for those at the Rejuvenate Marketplace were that the “City of Gold” remains a once-in-a-lifetime destination of history, culture and spirituality that many tourists still want to experience.
Melchior said her time in Dallas was well spent interacting with potential clients and determining the convention needs they are voicing.
“The challenge is being prepared to give them the best package,” she said. “That way, I think everybody wins on both sides. We are learning.”
The Jerusalem CVB, established about a half year ago, offers a wide range of hotels, large conference venues, Israeli cuisine, and cultural exhibitions to Dallas representatives looking to bring an event to Jerusalem, Melchior said during her brief interview.
“We have amazing projects in the city,” she said. “Good food, good location, good hotels.”
And as far as future convention or conference prospects, Melchior said visitors would be welcome with open arms.
“The city of Jerusalem is waiting for them,” she said.