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Go Holyland is the name of my new Project and – God willing – my future job. Basically it is a free online travel magazine with tourist information, providing articles on the history and historical sites of the land, on the society and culture, and columns and recommendations.
Sure, it is still relatively new, but it is a work in progress. We began work in May, with the first planning on what to do and how to attack it. We did it wrong, basically, trying to make our own website from scratch, which didn’t work so well. We soon hired a programmer and designer, who could help us with the basics. What we did was to go from a “do-it-all-yourself-easy-designing”-program, basically making it very easy for us to make a very heavy and unorganized website, to using a WordPress theme on a web-hotel. It’s a learning progress, but it’s knowledge much needed and which I really appreciate so far. How much will be used on this blog, which in the future won’t be so active, I still don’t know, but on my Danish blog, Kaltoft.me (which you probably won’t get so much out of, if you don’t speak Danish), I’ve already used several features. And many of them are so simple that I simply don’t understand that I didn’t learn it earlier.
So what is Go Holyland about? Well, as the name says, it is about the Holy Land, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and though it covers an area, which has heavy political implications, the site itself is not political. We relate – of course – to the situation as it is, but without trying to insist on a certain narrative. The site is mostly dealing with Israel and Israelis, but is generally dealing with whoever lives in the Land, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druzes and so on. When we talk about society and culture, true, it is mainly Israel. When/if there will be a future Palestinian state, there will probably be a “Go Holyland – Palestine”, but even though there are talks it doesn’t seem to be a reality in the near future. But let’s see, maybe things will actually happen this time, we can only hope.
Back on track. One of our goals is to let the people of the Land present and represent themselves as much as possible. We prefer to have articles on society and culture written by people living in the land, expressing themselves and how they understand the reality they live in. One reason for doing this, is that we are a little tired of how the foreign media always attempt to be the voice of the area, not letting people who live here express themselves. Everything has to be presented through the narrative of the conflict, while reality is so much more, and we want people outside to see this. We live here, meet the people every day, we are part of the lives here, and we understand that there is so much more to the Land, than just conflict, which really isn’t that total in the everyday picture, as it is made as. Of course, a conflict always has implications on all parts, but people do live, they are not only sitting and relating to that. So, Go Holyland is an attempt – among other things – to present the outside world for reality here in a positive way.
Go Holyland is also about helping the tourist visiting us. What is there to do here? Where to stay? Where and what to eat? Where to go and how? What to bring and what to expect? All this we attempt to help with. The site is in three parts, a practical information – where you can find information on the weather, the currency, important links and contact information, and what to pack.
There is the Index part, where you so far can find a virtual map, which shows you a number of different objects, which helps you find what you would like to see and where. The good thing about the map is that you can search on a number of categories, for example if you want to find a restaurant, then you enter the dining section (and here you can find different kinds of restaurants, for example Japanese, Italian and so on), or if you’re into nature and you want to find out what nature sites there are to see, then you simply search on that. You can both search and enter index categories. You can also search according to location, so if you’re going to Israel and you know that you’re staying in for example Tel Aviv, then you can simply search on things in Tel Aviv, rather than on categories. That is what makes the map good. What makes it great is the geolocation option. Sure, we’re not the first ones to use this feat, but mostly it has been for locals and I still have to see it in travel e-zines (I actually don’t know if there are any such, which have the map-feature at all). In short, you are situated on Zion square in Jerusalem, you want to eat, and you want to eat Yemenite food, you just don’t want to chase around for it. You want something near you, but you don’t know of any place or if there even is anything near you. No prob, you enter the map, enter the geo-location option, decides to look for items up to two kms from you, search on Yemenite restaurants, and there you are, you see all the Yemenite restaurants within two kms from you. At least those registered.
Then there is the magazine itself, which has four sections, the Editor’s Corner (yup, that’s mine), where the editor writes recommendations and monthly letters. Not much to say about that part besides that. The Columns is for our columnists, where they write columns based on their particular field of expertise in combination with the monthly theme. For example, the theme is food, the columnist is writing as an Israeli Arab, hence the column will focus on the Arab cuisine in Israel (thought example). So far we have Haim Cohen, pretty darn known chef here, having made television shows and written books about food, as well as owning leading restaurants in Israel. We have Miriam Toukan, Israeli Arab Christian, who was the first Arab contestant in the Israeli version of American Idol (Nolad Kochav – A Star is Born), who performs and otherwise work as a lawyer, representing the Christians in Israel. And we have Shosh Friedman, the Oriental Rose, stage artist, dance instructor, and actress. She is an expert in Middle Eastern dance and music, having initiated her own academic course for dance teachers, and herself taught at the David Yeilin College. Let’s just say that she knows what she’s talking about, when it comes to dance and music of the Middle East.
The Culture & Society section deals with the society as today, as well as articles on historical events, which had an impact on the society of today, so it’s basically about lives then and now. It concerns all part of society, music, sport, art, and so on and so on. We are not totally up to par when it comes to writers, but hopefully we soon have the team in place. The Sightseeing section deals with the static, sort of speaking, about the sites that you need to see. For example, we have articles on the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque, the Holy Sepulcher, and the Hurva Synagogue, but those articles are articles about the sites, not the people or the events (well, to a certain extent) taking place around them. Those articles would be found in the Culture & Society section.
That’s what we have so far. What is coming up? Well, in the Index section we plan to add an event page, where we will publish upcoming events, as well as a travel agency and tourist guide page, where people can find travel agencies and – surprise – tourist guides. That is being worked on as I write this, so hopefully that will be ready soon. We already have some events to publish, and they will be found on the front page until further notice, but until we have travel agencies and tourist guides interested in publishing, we won’t publish those pages (it simply doesn’t give sense).
In the future we are planning on establishing an online shop as well. Not selling our products, but rather to give a stand to people we want to partner with, whether it be selling books dealing with subjects connected to the Holy Land, Dead Sea products, or Judaica. We are still working on the planning in this respect, so let’s see how it progresses.
So, there it is, Go Holyland Travel Magazine and Tourist Information!