Two Years On, Israelis Are Flocking to Antalya Once Again

After Gaza Flotilla affair caused relations between Israel and Turkey to plunge, Israeli tourists are returning: number of passengers on Tel Aviv route rose 33% in first half of year.

Israelis are flocking back to Antalya, the Turkish Mediterranean resort town, after staying away for two years due to soured diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem.

Relations took a nosedive following the 2010 confrontation on the Mediterranean between Israeli Navy commandos and a Turkish flotilla seeking to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Earlier this year, the two countries embarked on efforts to come to a settlement over the incident, in which nine Turkish citizens died. By June, passenger traffic between Israel and Antalya was 24% higher than the same month last year. Many of the air passengers from Antalya are Russian tourists who visit the resort and sign up for one-day trips to Israel.

The Civil Aviation Authority said about 53,000 passengers made the round-trip journey on the air route between Ben-Gurion International Airport and Antalya in June, rendering the city the third most popular destination from Tel Aviv’s international airport after Kennedy airport in New York, with 70,500, and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with 69,700. Between January and June, 126,700 air passengers have made their way between Tel Aviv and Antalya, a 33% increase over the period last year.

The exodus to Antalya looks like it will continue this month. On Thursday, eight charter flights operated by three separate Turkish carriers departed Israel for the Turkish resort area. No Israeli airlines currently fly to Turkey due to the refusal of the Turks to accede to security arrangements that Israeli authorities have demanded before service is resumed.

Moshe Gilad