Passover Rush Begins, 550,000 Travelers Expected Through Ben Gurion

Some 60,000 Israelis are expected to cross into the Sinai desert during the holiday.

The holiday travel rush began in earnest Sunday with some 47,000 passengers going through Ben-Gurion International Airport on about 300 flights.

Because of the serious congestion passengers traveling abroad during the holiday are recommended to arrive at the airport as much as four hours before the departure of their flights - and not three hours as is normally recommended.

On the whole, during the Passover holiday, some 555,000 passengers are expected to pass through Terminal 3, arriving or departing on about 3,500 flights. There has been a 19 percent increase in the volume of passengers and 13 percent rise in the number of flights compared to the same holiday season in 2009.

At the Taba crossing into Sinai, some 60,000 persons are expected to cross throughout the Passover holiday, a rise of about 15 percent compared to 2009. Most of those crossing into Egypt are tourists, and among the Israelis the vast majority are Israeli Arabs.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a full closure of the West Bank for the duration of Passover, starting yesterday.

The closure will last for nine days except for those given permission to enter Israeli territory on humanitarian grounds and on the basis of Civil Administration recommendations. Christians will be allowed to leave the West Bank for the Easter holiday.

Today at the airport will also be a busy day, with some 36,000 passengers passing through Ben-Gurion Airport on 226 flights.

The busiest day of the Passover holiday is expected to be on April 8, with about 48,000 passengers on more than 300 flights passing through the airport.

The leading destinations for passengers traveling from Israel for the holiday are the United States, France, Italy, Germany and Turkey. Last year Turkey suffered a dramatic drop in Israeli tourism - by as much as 40 percent - because of tensions in relations between the two countries over Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. This year, however, the situation has improved, and there has been a rise in the traffic between the two countries compared to last year.

With the beginning of spring, five new airlines will begin flying to Ben-Gurion Airport: German Wings will operate two weekly flights to Cologne; Donbassaero and DnieproAvia will operate regular flights to Ukraine; Sas Strategic Airlines will operate charter flights to France; and Armavia will operate regular flights to Romania.