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The opening of the first part of the Trans-Israel Highway - between Kibbutz Eyal and Kibbutz Nahshonim - has been delayed a month to July because members of Raytheon, the American company building the toll system, have left Israel because of the security situation. Derech Eretz Construction Joint Venture (CJV), the company managing the project, is contracted to the government to open the entire road by the middle of 2004.

One reason the 18-kilometer section was to be opened in June before the rest of the road was to test the toll system and see how drivers react to the concept of toll roads, which will be new to Israelis here.

However, after the Passover terror attack on Park Hotel in Netanya, several Raytheon staffers left Israel, and were followed by more when Operation Defensive Shield began, leaving work on the toll system incomplete.

Derech Eretz CEO Udi Savion said Raytheon's representatives have agreed to return, in part thanks to the intervention of the Israeli and U.S. governments. Work on the toll system has resumed and the road will be opened within two months, he said.