Parks and Forests Fill Up for Holiday, but Roads Stay Thankfully Clear

More than 200,000 people visited Israel's nature reserves, national parks and other open areas, and another 50,000 took to the forests yesterday, the first day of Passover, according to estimates compiled by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund.

Nature-lovers enjoyed pleasant weather yesterday, but the mercury will rise during the week - with hot, dry conditions expected to develop over the weekend.

Despite the holiday, no major traffic tie-ups were reported, nor any fatal accidents. "There was less traffic yesterday than on a regular weekend," Chief Superintendent Ami Dahan, commander of the central region's traffic police, said.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Barack Obama marked Passover with a seder in the White House.

Obama celebrated his third consecutive Passover in the company of family, friends and staff members. Among his Jewish guests were senior adviser David Axelrod and the First Lady's chief of staff, Susan Sher.

Back in Israel, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said that this year, as in previous years, its most popular sites were Banias Nature Reserve and Caesarea National Park, with 4,000 visitors each. Some 3,300 people visited Masada, while another 3,000 made their way to Yarkon National Park.

The Jewish National Fund said visitor traffic to its forests was relatively light yesterday, but that it was expected to pick up later in the holiday week. Some 25,000 people visited JNF sites in the north, most heading for the Carmel Forest near Haifa and the Biriya Forest near Safed.

Hundreds of holiday travelers also ventured to Lake Agmon in the Hula Valley to watch the last of the flocks of migrating cranes still located at the site. Some 20,000 people visited forests in the center of the country, mainly Ben- Shemen Forest and British Park.

As temperatures rise later in the week, a high of 31 degrees Celsius is expected in Tel Aviv, a high of 34 in Tiberias and of 28 in Jerusalem.