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A Top 10 for 2010
From the perspective of a travel reporter, there are 10 destinations of Jewish interest that stand out, as they represent experiences that combine a mix of glamour, adventure and evidence our people can prosper and be welcomed practically anywhere:
Chile (www.tourismchile.com): Wines, both regular and kosher, have put Chile on the map as a destination. Eco- and adventure tourism have also become major draws for this long, slender country that lines most of the South American continental coast, and is home to many cultures and climates.
For city slickers, Santiago and Valparaiso more than deliver with their wealth of artsy neighborhoods, museums, shopping and gastronomy scenes. Adding to this country's allure is the fact that Jewish people have been a presence since the 16th century, and played a key part in the founding of the country in the 19th. The Iglesia Israelita, an Indian tribe found in Chile's south, observe many Jewish customs and consider themselves to be Jewish as well.
Morocco (www.visitmorocco.com): Moroccan Jews have thrived on U.S. soil, especially in the fashion industry and other creative fields. Alber Elbaz and the Dahan and Marciano families (Joe's Jeans and Guess?, respectively) are household names. While Moroccan Jews historically have a sharp eye for beauty, and Morocco's rich Jewish history make the destination well worth the journey, so does the country's stunning and vibrant architecture, hearty, spicy cuisine, and wondrous hiking and trekking opportunities.
Denmark (www.visitdenmark.com) : Copenhagen has been in the news for hosting the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference -- a perfect spot for the conference, as Denmark enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living.
On a historic note, the Danish are fondly remembered for their combined effort in rescuing 7,200 of their Jewish countrymen during World War II.
Albuquerque, Taos and Santa Fe (www.newmexico.org): The term "wandering Jew" takes on a profound meaning when one examines the life and times of those European Jewish settlers who followed the Santa Fe trail, helped build New Mexico's cities and economy, and forged productive relationships with Native American tribes.
While there are plenty of cultural institutions throughout New Mexico that pay tribute to their contributions, the cities there also boast fantastic modern amenities as well.
Cork, Ireland (www.DiscoverIreland.com): Dublin still remains the hub of Jewish life in Ireland with more than 1,000 residents and a growing Jewish museum. Though the community in Cork (Ireland's second-largest city) had been on the wane, it's still hanging in there, with the local synagogue conducting services and its Jewish historical roots still prominently on display.
Australia's Northern Territories(www.australia.com): The starting point for a journey to these territories is Darwin, a relaxed, beachy tropical paradise. Though the biggest Jewish population centers are in Melbourne and Sydney, Darwin has a comfortable Jewish presence, as well as access to a myriad of eco- and adventure-tourism opportunities, and nearby aboriginal cultural experiences.
Belgium(www.visitbelgium.com): It's a little country that's big on world-class beer, chocolate, cuisine, architecture, fashion and the arts.
While many savvy tourists tack it on to a multicountry travel itinerary, the multilingual and multifaceted country merits a dedicated stay in its own right. The Jewish story is particularly poignant in Belgium, as the government has made efforts to protect its 35,000-strong Jewish population and recognized Judaism as an official state religion.
Even with the waves of antiSemitism that have flared up around Europe in recent years, the Jews of Belgium have pushed back via working relationships with the Catholic Church and various Christian organizations to help promote interfaith dialogue.
Thailand (www.tourismthailand.org): There is much to love in Bangkok and beyond, from otherworldly natural beauty and majestic architectural wonders to its internationally popular noodle dishes and vibrant markets selling fine textiles and other artisanal products. While the community numbers around 300, Jewish people have had a presence in this country since the 17th century.
With a population that is 95 percent Buddhist, Thailand has always been a nation that stood for religious tolerance, which explains why hundreds of Jews found safety here during World War II.
South Africa (www.southafrica.net) : With the conclusion of apartheid (thanks, in part, to the activism of numerous Jews, including Harry Schwarz, Helen Suzman, Nadine Gordimer, Joe Slovo and Johnny Clegg), South Africa is back on the map for some of the right reasons, from its beautiful geography and access to safaris at places like Kruger National Park to a thriving viniculture community that includes some kosher-wine producers. Jewish life and culture lives and breathes in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as in Durban, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.