More than 2.5 million visitors flocked to Israel's forests, nature reserves and national parks over the Passover holiday, figures provided by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Jewish National Fund show.
INPA reported that 1.5 million people visited nature reserves and parks - one-third of them came to regulated sites while others preferred walking and hiking in open areas. The most popular site this year was the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, which attracted 33,000 people.
Second and third came Masada National Park and the Banias nature reserve.
Despite the Israeli tourist's reputation for littering and driving badly off-road, parks authority officials were full of praise yesterday.
"Israelis are outstanding tourists compared to [people in] other countries around the world. At every opportunity they pack their things, jump into their cars and go out to open spaces - to nature reserves from Tel Dan in the north to Coral Beach in Eilat," said Uzi Barzilai, head of the parks authority's tourist division.
"They are littering less and are using the trash bags we distributed to them more. But there's still a lot of work to be done."
The JNF reported that more than 1 million people visited its forests, 400,000 on Sunday and Monday at the end of the Passover holiday. One of the major changes this year in the forests was the large number of bicycle riders who used the trails recently prepared by the JNF.
Lake Hula remained one of the north's most popular attractions, drawing thousands of visitors. Many came to watch the migrating birds that use the site as a food-and-rest stop on their way north in the spring.
Thousands visited Mount Carmel over the holiday to see the results of the huge bush fire five months ago, but also the blossoming flowers that covered the mountainside in pink, yellow and red.
Tens of thousands visited the Hashofet and Hazorea streams near Ramat Menashe. Large central-region attractions such as Britannia Park and the forests of Ben Shemen, Masua and Eshtaol were crowded with visitors.
Most of the people going south visited Malachim Forest, Golda Park, Yatir Forest and Eilat Bird Park.
JNF field officers also reported an improvement in the visitors' behavior regarding trash, but the JNF still had to collect 600 tons of garbage left behind in forests and parking lots.
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