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National Geographic -- Russia readers have chosen Israel as one of the top tourist destinations in the annual National Geographic Traveler Awards for 2011.
Israel came in at second place in the top tourist destination category with Italy coming first and Holland in third place.
The competition is conducted in three parts. Russian tour agents and operators are the first to cast their votes, and then magazine readers choose their most favorite tourist destination and the final vote is open to the entire Russian population with over 10,000 people choosing their favorite tourist spots from 48 countries.
In recent years Israel's Ministry of Tourism has intensified its efforts to draw Russian tourists to Israel and in 2011 invested over 25 million shekels promoting Israel. Up until September this year the ministry said some 357,000 Russian tourists visited Israel.