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Musicians shy away from Israel as Gaza conflict hits country’s tourism industry

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A house outside of Tel Aviv damaged by a rocket fired from Gaza. Photo by Gil Cohen Magen—AFP/Getty Images

A month after Israel’s military entered the Gaza Strip, the war has already taken a noticeable toll on the country’s tourism industry, which could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the near term.

While U.S. airlines resumed flights into Israel last month after being halted for a few days by regulators, the Israel Hotel Association said recently that it expected a 35% dip in the number of visitors to the country in the third quarter, according to Reuters, as tourists are frightened off by the regular stream of rocket attacks in between the occasional, brief truce between Israel and the Hamas militants in Gaza.

Count famous musicians among those who are wary about making the trip to Israel, as Billboard reported last week that a slew of international acts have cancelled and postponed concerts in the country in the past month, which could result in losses of as much as $20 million for local promoters and venues.

Earlier this week, Megadeth and CeeLo Green pulled out of planned shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, respectively, while Lana Del Ray on Friday reportedly postponed a Tel Aviv show that had been scheduled for August 20. Those musicians are following performers like the Backstreet Boys, Kansas and Neil Young, who were among the first high-profile acts to cancel or postpone in the past month, according to Billboard.

The nervousness about security has also extended to sporting events. Last week, the Association of Tennis Professionals said it was canceling the inaugural Negev Israel Open, which was set to take place next month and would have been the first ATP World Tour tennis tournament held in Israel in almost two decades.

Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau has said that the tourism hit is tough to swallow for a country that relies heavily on visitors, though he also recently told Reuters that he expects the industry to recover over the remainder of the year.

Meanwhile, one source of tourism for the country, the Birthright Israel program, has maintained that it has no plans to cancel any upcoming trips. The program, which annually brings roughly 40,000 young Jewish adults from around the world to Israel for a couple of weeks at a time, also said Friday that fewer than 10 of the more than 5,000 participants who came to Israel in the past 15 days have returned home earlier than planned.