Juha’s Guesthouse in Jisr al-Zarka is looking for seaside guests

Juha's gueshouse

Jisr al-Zarka, Israel’s only remaining coastal Arab town and nearly forgotten by both local and foreign visitors has made a small beginning to promote tourism to the town with the completion of the first tourist guest house called Juha’s.

Located on top of a busy eatery in the center of town, the Juha Guesthouse is a joint undertaking by an Israeli Jew, Neta Hanien of Moshav Aviel, and Jisr resident Ahmad Juha, the owner of the café (photo below).

Neta and Achmas Jiser partnersComposed of two private bedrooms and a central dormitory style room, the guesthouse opened its doors with the idea of offering visitors an opportunity to get to know Jisr al-Zarka more intimately.

Jisr, a town of 12,000 inhabitants, is wedged in between one of Israel’s most affluent kibbutzim, Maagan Michael; and its most luxurious residential community, Caesarea. Often described as one of the poorest towns in Israel, with a high “drop out” rate among school children, Jisr al-Jarka was described by its mayor, Az-Adin Amash, as “the most beautiful place on earth.”

Amash believes his town has a great tourism potential with its still unspoiled beach front and quaint Fisherman’s Village (photo below).

The guest house project is only a small start in a community where outside visitors are still few and far between.

Jisr al  Zarka, 8.12.10 026“For years, we felt that Jisr was a ‘desert Island’, due to being avoided by both the Jewish and Arab communities; but now things may be changing,” says guest house partner Ahmad Juha.

Some of the big issues, from a tourism standpoint, is not having banks and similar tourism infrastructures; as well as easy access from the main coastal highway that runs by the town: “We need a more direct access road to the main coastal highway. Although we own the property adjacent to the highway, we still have no direct access to it,” said mayor Az-Adin Amash told me during a visit to Jiser a while back.

Neighboring kibbutz Maagan Michal does not have a direct access to the coastal highway either. An access sollution would be of benefit to it as well.

Both Jisr and the kibbutz share a protected nature reserve involving the Taninim or Crocodile Stream; where crocodiles, and possibly hippopotami, were once said to have inhabited it.

A special access road and bridge over the coastal highway was built a few years back to allow visitors to come to the nature reserve without having to pass through Jisr al-Zarka. “We hope to eventually construct a holiday village on our beach site that will benefit both Jewish and Arab visitors. We have funds available to do this, but we need to receive a permit from the government to undertake the development,” said Mayor Amash.

juha guesthouse

So far, this has not happened, and the beachfront still looked about the same during a recent visit I made there in November, 2013. Jisr al-Zarka is just another example of tourism potential in Arab towns and villages in both Israel and in the Palestinian Authority; where guesthouses and other tourism facilities could benefit from more frequent visitation as well as from better public relations campaigns.

::Juha’s Facebook

Read more on tourism and guesthouses:
Eco Tour the West Bank with the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem
A Whirlwind Guide to Palestinian Guesthouses
“Forgotten” Arab Town Gets Chance to Change Eco Image
Saudi Teacher Built a Funky Guest House Out of Recycled Materials

Photo of Neta Hanein and Ahmad Juha by Haaretz/Daniel Tchetchik

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