Tourism to North Increases Slightly Since Beginning of Sukkot Holiday

Some 40,000 people visited JNF sites Sunday, though all but one of the sites were not filled to capacity.

The number of tourists in the north increased slightly Sunday, marking an improvement over the first part of the weeklong Sukkot holiday, when fewer people visited tourist sites and stayed at guesthouses than last year.

Shmuel Hazan, who runs the Golan Tourism Association, said the number of visitors to the Golan Heights has increased since the weekend. He said there has been increased activity at tourist sites and that many people were coming to see a basalt sculpture festival in the area.

Some 40,000 people visited Jewish National Fund hiking sites Sunday, the organization said, but added that all but one of the sites were not filled to capacity. The exception was Agmon Hahula, where 5,000 visitors came to watch birds.

Thousands of people came to an olive harvest at Lavi Forest in the Lower Galilee, the JNF said. Thousands more visited the Kiryat Shmona and Golan Heights area, the forests in the Shfela region and Park Canada. About 1,000 people visited the Sataf springs in Jerusalem, and hundreds went to the Ben-Shemen Forest, and parks in Shoham and Rosh Ha'ayin.

Meanwhile, kayaking sites on the Jordan River and its tributaries said they received fewer visitors this Sukkot than last. The drop comes despite an improvement in kayaking conditions, said Kfar Blum Kayaks CEO Guy Yarmak.

"Since the farming industry started using less water, there's a good water flow," said Yarmak, adding that his company gets 1,000 visitors a day.

Ofer Sivan, who oversees kayaking and other water sports for the Upper Galilee regional council, said the public mistakenly thinks there isn't enough water for family kayaking activities.

"The decrease in the number of visitors at kayaking sites is solely due to the mistaken impression the media created that there's no water in the Jordan and its tributaries," said Sivan.

He said that kayaking and other water activities are a major tourist attraction in the Upper Galilee and that the damage they have sustained has been a blow to the entire region's tourism industry.

This period is the height of the grape harvest, and the Galil Mountain Winery on Kibbutz Yiron opened its doors to tourists Sunday. The winery held free wine-stomping sessions for children, after which they got to keep the grape juice they helped make while adults got to taste wine.

In the south of the country, Arad Park was packed, and many people also visited Lahav and Yatir forests and Ben-Gurion Park in Dimona. Hundreds of visitors went to Yeruham and Hamelachim parks.