Purgatory on the Way to Paradise: Israelis Face Long Lines at Egypt Border

Thousands are waiting to cross the border into Sinai for the interim days of Passover. Before the pandemic, Taba crossing was open 24 hours a day, but the hours can’t be extended further due to staffing shortfalls

Hadar Kane
Hadar Kane
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People waiting to cross the border into Egypt, at the Taba crossing in Sinai, on Sunday.
People waiting to cross the border into Egypt, at the Taba crossing in Sinai, on Sunday.Credit: Omer Barash
Hadar Kane
Hadar Kane

The interim days of Passover have arrived, and with them huge crowds at the border crossing from Eilat to Sinai, Egypt.

Sunday saw thousands of people arrive at the crossing, in long lines leaving Israel as well as returning from Egypt.

According to the Israel Airports Authority, which also operates Israel’s land crossings, more than 5,000 people were expected to cross into Egypt on Sunday, and more personnel have been added. “Both sides of the crossing were crowded throughout the morning,” the authority reported, recommending that travelers arrive at the crossing in the noon hours. The crowds are expected to continue throughout the interim days of the holiday.

Israeli tourists in Sinai. Credit: Moti Milrod

Omer Barash arrived at the crossing on Sunday at 7:30 A.M. “It’s already 10 A.M. and it looks like we’re only halfway through the line on the Israeli side. We’ve come for five days, and except for the crowd, it’s hot and awesome.”

The Israel Airports Authority announced in March that demand would be high for vacations in Sinai during Passover and foot-traffic jams across the southern border would be huge. They expect that the number of Israelis crossing the border this week will reach at least the numbers on 2019, when 35,000 Israelis went to Sinai.

But the crossing was not open around the clock as it was before the pandemic. In 2020 the crossing was intermittently closed, and in 2021 it was opened with major restrictions, which included a cap of only 300 travelers a day, during which the crossing was open for eight hours. In 2022, opening hours were extended to 12 hours a day, from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M.

The Israel Airports Authority explained that it was unable to extend opening hours at the crossing because of a shortage of personnel, as well as Egypt’s unwillingness to extend the opening hours on the other side of the border.

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