Advertisers Banned from Rashbi Gravesite in Meron
By R. Gil
Four hundred thousand people gathered at a single site for a limited period of time is every advertiser's dream. R' Shimon Bar Yochai's gravesite — the second most visited tourist site in Israel — certainly had every reason to turn into a hotspot for marketers. A marketing opportunity that comes around just once a year. Though the site draws some one million people annually, all eyes are on Lag B'omer, which offers a maximum crowd in a minimum time frame.
Until this year a sort of unofficial taboo kept would-be advertisers at bay. Invisible lines were respected and if a bit of marketing was carried out here and there, it was discreet and at a level low enough to avoid objections.
This year, possibly due to the Tourism Ministry's major campaign to market the site to chareidim outside of Eretz Yisroel, the first breach occurred. According to a report in Ha'aretz, various non-profit organizations sold advertising packages at astronomic prices, enticing ad agencies with irresistible offers to expose their clients to peak traffic.
Centrally located booths and very visible signs and banners drew higher rates, with prices in the tens of thousands of shekels — NIS 50,000 ($12,000) all the up to NIS 150,000 ($37,000)!
"We have never allowed advertising here. It runs counter to the spirit of the site," said the Director of the Center for Holy Sites, who had been unaware advertising was taking place behind his back. He put a stop to it, and the usual spirit prevailed.