Hot Air Balloon to Fly From Israel's Tip to Tail for First Time

One-time event to begin September 10, ahead of a hot air balloon festival in Timna Valley Park, north of Eilat.

Intrepid travelers have become used to traversing the Israel Trail by foot, but five people and a dog will now be able to experience it from above - in a hot air balloon.

The Civil Aviation Authority has recently granted permission to the company Hot Air Balloons Over Israel to fly the entire length of the country along the trail, in a series of flights that will take place over two weeks, Haaretz has learned. The one-time event is slated to begin September 10, ahead of a hot air balloon festival in Timna Valley Park, north of Eilat.

This will be the first time a balloon will travel above the entire length of the Israel Trail. If the event is a success, it may be possible to offer the trip as a tourist attraction, said company founder Moran Itzckovich, who will be flying in the hot air balloon along with his dog, a professional photographer and three experts in various fields.

Since founding the company in 2003, Itzckovich, a commercial pilot and aircraft maintenance expert, has worked with Israeli authorities at developing the balloon industry in the country, and developed the first maintenance center in the Negev city of Arad.

"This time, we're talking about a special journey," Itzckovich said Sunday. "Floating freely in a hot air balloon is a unique experience."

Speaking of a standard hot air balloon trip, he said: "The flight lasts about an hour, but the adventure itself lasts several hours, and includes preparation for the flight and a traditional breakfast."

Itzckovich said he has flown balloons all over the world, including at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world's premier hot air balloon event, held every year in New Mexico. It was at this event that Itzckovich came up with the idea of establishing a similar festival in Israel, the first of which was held last year in Timna during the Sukkot holiday.

Itzckovich said he is working in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry, the Arad municipality, and several leisure and non-profit organizations in an effort to develop tourism in the Negev and Arava valley.