Photograph by Yaro Brill
And why should Israel do such a thing? Our land is precious – our money has to be spent on other things than developing areas only for the rich to enjoy! Golf – a game for snobs and Anglos! Yes, I have heard this over and over again, yet how wrong these assumptions are.
In the 70s Eilat enjoyed great popularity with non-Jewish winter vacationers. Hotels sprang up, package deals were made for European companies and Eilat began to hum as an international destination. It was recommended that a golf course should be developed – water was not to be a problem with the functioning of the Zarchin plant and also purification of sea water by the electricity company. Stretches of desert stood empty just begging for trees, fairways and putting greens to break the sandy wastes. But no – who wants golf – who needs golf? It was never developed and after the return of Sinai, that segment of winter vacationers stopped as Egypt developed better holiday facilities for this traffic. Coral reefs were respected and golf courses developed both at Sharm el Sheikh and Taba and prices were attractive. Today even Aqaba will soon be leaving Eilat behind when their golf course opens.
So what does Israel go on offering? Pilgrimage tours and holidays for the Jewish-Israel supporters plus short stays for businessmen coming to close Hi-Tech and other deals. But this segment has golfers within it as does the Jewish visitor scene. In fact many business-men like to make their deals on the golf course – the behavior of those they play with gives a very good idea of the personality and character of the player. There is much more to the game of golf than the person in the street realizes.
Israel had one – soon to reopen – upgraded 18 hole course in Caesarea and a 9 hole course at Gaash – which has faced closure by the Land Authority on a number of occasions. China now boasts 200 courses! Many have been the dreams, the plans, the talking and the failures for golf courses to be developed in Israel. But the conception is wrong in many cases – again ideas to cater for the rich, to have upmarket hotels, spas and all that blah – nonsense! This is NOT Florida or even the overdeveloped south of Spain – this is Israel. Golf should be here to cater for the middle-class sectors, young married couples with growing families, retired couples and a wider market of youth, including our minority sectors. Even religiously-minded Christians visiting the Holy Land would lengthen their stays for a few days of golf in picturesque surroundings.
Golf and what the game means and can bring is also a perfect educator for the average Israeli. It teaches planning, restraint, obeying of rules and etiquette – all subjects that will improve many of the shortcomings of the national character. And therefore our youth should be encouraged to play.
This brings me to a subject of additional importance – the lack of sports in the Israeli education system. Money should be spent on that and not on bigger and better cars, offices and expenses for our ineffective parliamentarians and bureaucracy. Education is our future. So there should be facilities for the young for a wide range of sporting activities. Schools should be fitted with decent gymnasiums and time set aside for regular workouts and exercise. Interschool competitive activities can also teach those important elements in behavior which are so sadly lacking.
But back to golf – it is good for both young and old. It takes often lonely retirees out of the house, gives them exercise, company and an ongoing challenge. Abroad, I have played golf with cleaning ladies, bus drivers, with the rich and with the poor, with children of six and retired persons in their eighties. They love it and can afford it because it is made affordable. Proper planning, marketing and costing that would provide municipal courses, as are found abroad in the U.K., U.S.A. and parts of Europe are possible. Ecologically catered courses can be developed which care for green areas, in fact provide them, by using recycled water and providing protective habitats for animals – two positive options.
Let us roll up our sleeves and look to the future and improve our conception of tourism, education and development.