Eilat on Shutdown: Southern Israeli Tourist Hub Closes Border in Airport Row

Public transport, government services and schools shut down in protest of planned closure of Tel Aviv airport mostly used for domestic flights to resort town

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A protest in Eilat, March 12, 2019
A protest in Eilat, March 12, 2019Credit: The Campaign to Stop Sde Dov Closure

Israel’s southern resort town of Eilat is on full lockdown Tuesday, in protest of the government's decision to close down a Tel Aviv airport from which many internal flights leave for the city. Sde Dov Airport is scheduled to be shuttered on July 1.

Border crossings, the airport, the Egged public bus company, municipality services, government offices and shopping areas, as well as most schools, are on strike until 2 P.M. local time.

Eilat's mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, even announced his intention to go on a hunger strike Thursday if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not extend Sde Dov's operation until at least July 2020.

Attorney General instructed Netanyahu earlier this week to refrain from any decision concerning the airport, given the upcoming elections.

>> Eilat's new airport is a breath of fresh airHurry up! Eilat's coral reef, one of NYT's Places to Go in 2019, is facing destruction

In January, Israel opened the Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport in Timna in the southern Negev. The airport is named after the Israeli astronaut who died in the 2002 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and his son, an Air Force pilot who died in a training crash.

It covers 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) and boasts a 45,000 square-meter terminal. Its runway is 3,600 meters long – enough to handle even jumbo jets. Up to 60 wide- and narrow-body jets can park at the airport at the same time.

Eilat has been chosen by the New York Times for its list of "52 Places to Go in 2019." Ranked 6th on the list, it outplaces such global tourist destinations as New York, which is No. 31, and Hong Kong, which was ranked 44th.

In its description of Eilat, in addition to "the prismatic waters of this Red Sea resort on Israel’s southern tip" and its "coral reef with hundreds of varieties of neon fish, sharks and stingrays," the Times highlights the scheduled opening of new hotels and the new airport.

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