Ignoring Travel Warnings, 20,000 Israelis Flood Egypt's Sinai Over Holidays

The 22-percent rise over last year reflects record number of Israelis ignoring government warnings, burgeoning number of Jewish Israelis visiting Egyptian peninsula.

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Nuweiba, Egypt, October 2016.
Nuweiba, Egypt, October 2016. Credit: Maya Horodniceanu
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad
Moshe Gilad

During the seven-day Sukkot festival that ended Monday and the preceding weekend, some 20,000 Israelis crossed the Menachem Begin border crossing at Taba on their way into Sinai. According to the Israel Airports Authority, this figure represents a 22-percent increase in the number of visitors to the peninsula during the holiday period, as compared to the previous year. On average in October, about 1,500 Israelis crossed the border into Egypt every day.

IAA spokeswomen cited last Passover, in late April, as a turning point: According to the authority’s figures, until that time there had been a decline in the number of Israelis who traveled to Sinai. Since then, the trend has reversed and many Israelis have apparently chosen to ignore the recommendations of the anti-terror bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office and have crossed the border at Taba.

The IAA figures also point to a significant rise in the number of Jewish Israelis crossing the border into Egypt – 70 percent of visitors to Sinai during Sukkot were Jews, while in previous years most of those traveling there have been Israeli Arabs.

The uptick in travelers in recent months indicates a record number of Israelis who are ignoring government warnings against travel to Sinai, where the PMO bureau has deemed that there is “a very high, concrete threat” to personal security. Their recommendation: “to refrain from any visit whatsoever and to leave the region immediately.”

An update published by the bureau prior to the 2016 High Holy Days stated that, "the serious warning is still in effect against trips to the Sinai Peninsula – in light of the security situation in the area and the terrorist activity there, especially in the ‘Sinai District’ of the Islamic State – and, accordingly, the recommendation to refrain from traveling to the region still holds.”

Many visitors who returned from Sinai during Sukkot noted the peaceful atmosphere; a feeling of security; the significant presence of the Egyptian Tourism Police, whose job is to safeguard vacationers; and the large crowds of Israeli visitors at many sites along the coastline, especially in the popular Nuweiba area. For the first time in many years, some of these sites were reported to be full to capacity.

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