New Year, but Fewer Crowds, at Northern Beauty Spots

A predicted downpour that held back and fine weather brought thousands of people to the north for the two-day Rosh Hashanah holiday. The head of the Galilee tourism forum and the CEO of the Gonen Holiday Village, Meir Levy, said nature sites, museums and other tourist attractions were full.

Eran Glick, director of tourism at Kibbutz Merom Golan in the Golan Heights, said the fact that the holiday fell earlier in the week this year had brought fewer people to the north than last year, and that smaller numbers might also be due to the fact that last year's campaign to get Israeli tourists back to the north following the previous year's war had not been repeated, but still "the tourist sites did well."

Glick noted a particular demand for horseback-riding and all-terrain quad-bikes.

Thousands of visitors came to Beit Shean National Park yesterday evening for its new sound and light show, Shean Nights. "Although people left early to return to the center of the country because they were worried about traffic jams, demand for tickets to the show tonight was high," the park's director, Nissim Bados, said yesterday.

Thousands of people came to the Jewish National Fund's Lake Agmon in the Hula Valley to see the first of the season's migrating cranes, pelicans and storks, and to stroll the paths.

About a quarter of a million visitors came to JNF sites, the organization said, with the Ben-Shemen and Canada parks in the center of the country particular attractions for families on bicycles.

JNF rangers said that despite the large numbers of visitors, they were pleasantly surprised by the level of cleanliness people maintained in the parks.

The Israel Airports Authority said some 55,000 people were expected to pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport today, the first peak of the fall holidays. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, some 34,358 people landed and departed on 205 flights.

There were a number of hitches in flights to and from Turkey. For example, a charter flight to Turkey of the Turkish airline Sky took off 24 hours late on Monday. El Al's subsidiary Sun D'Or had to pick up 180 travelers who were stuck for 10 hours in Antalya after a technical malfunction in the plane. El Al was among the Israeli and foreign airlines that added flights ahead of the holidays, with 30 more regular flights adding 20,000 seats to its lines to the U.S., Europe and the Far East.

El Al's deputy director for commercial and aviation ties, Rami Levy, said about 75,000 Israelis were expected to take El Al flights abroad, about 50 percent of whom were headed to Western Europe, 16 percent to Eastern Europe - mainly Bucharest, Moscow and Kiev - and the rest to the U.S. and Far East.

Some 51,000 tourists are to arrive in Israel on El Al flights during the holidays, more than half from Western Europe, mainly from Britain and France, 21 percent from the U.S. and 19 percent from Eastern Europe, Levy said.

Levy noted that El Al's code-sharing agreement with American Airlines had allowed the company to offer travelers a wide range of destinations in North America.