Ahead of Closure, Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport to Move Terminal Into Tent

Eilat-bound passengers flying from the small airport in the north of the city will have to use a temporary terminal tent in the military section of the airfield.

Planes at Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport, June 14, 2014.
Moti Milrod

As part of the government plan to defer shutting down aviation traffic at Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport, passengers will use a temporary tent terminal on the nearby military airport grounds.

Sde Dov, officially known as Dov Hoz, is situated in a prime residential location in the north of the city and has long been eyed as a site for future housing. Unlike Ben-Gurion International Airport, located to the east of Tel Aviv, Sde Dov has limited scheduled airline service and almost all of the flights are Eilat-bound.

The finance, defense and transportation ministers reached an agreement three months ago to delay the airport's closure until January 2019 rather than April of next year, as previously planned, by transferring the flights to the military section of the airfield.

The shift will allow the authorities, in coordination with the Tel Aviv Municipality, to start the process of building a new neighborhood at Sde Dov. Plans ultimately call for 16,000 housing units and 2,000 hotel rooms at the current airport site, which is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Israel.

The demolition of the existing small terminal on the eastern side of the airport will allow the Israel Land Authority to begin selling off the land. Prior to this, an environmental survey must be conducted and traffic must be redirected from Einstein Street in the Ramat Aviv neighborhood to the new temporary terminal. A government source with knowledge of the situation said preparation for the temporary terminal is still underway and that plans will be submitted to the National Planning and Building Council when they are complete.

The decision to delay shutting the airport followed political pressure on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, notably from the Eilat Municipality and from Arkia Israel Airlines, which serves the Eilat-Tel Aviv route. The campaign to keep Sde Dov open prompted legislation that 80 Knesset members signed on to, including a number from Kahlon’s own Kulanu party. The Finance Ministry ultimately managed to scuttle the bill in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but Kahlon and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman came up with the compromise plan almost immediately.

But there are also individuals who own plots of land in the future neighborhood and government officials are hoping that the landowners' court-appointed representatives will also go along will the plan, which will still require that they vacate by August of next year. The representatives claim the situation is more complex, saying that political pressure from the Eilat Municipality and Arkia is likely to continue between now and January 2019, which is to be the end of airline service between Sde Dov and Eilat. They are sowing doubts over the government’s capacity to push through the plan and have not yet said they will go along with it.

In response, the Defense Ministry said that it is “acting in accordance with the directive of the defense minister to assist in setting up a temporary terminal at Sde Dov” in coordination with the Israeli Airports Authority and other relevant officials. The finance and transportation ministries declined comment.