Tourist Sites Welcome Thousands of Israelis During Interim Days

Thousands of Israelis are using the interim days of the Passover holidays to visit tourist sites throughout the country, with a wide variety of festivals and activities on hand.

More than 13,000 visitors came to the southern sites of Masada, Ein Gedi and Mamshit, with the total number of visitors in the Negev up from last year, according to Gilad Gabai, deputy director of the Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority (INPPA) southern district.

Meanwhile, a fire late yesterday morning in the Negev's Ein Saharonim nature reserve in Machtesh Ramon destroyed destroyed about 12 dunams of natural vegetation, about half the reserve, before it could be extinguished several hours later.

Thousands headed to Haifa for the port city's Passover festivities, taking in the Baha'i Gardens and the zoo in Gan Haem on Mount Carmel, which was open at no charge. The Hai-Bar nature reserve on Mount Carmel on the outskirts of Haifa was another favorite, with staff conducting tours and wildlife observations.

Haifa also hosted its 17th annual children's theater festival.

The car belonging to Haifa's mayor, Yona Yahav, was broken into yesterday. The thief made off with the CD player and the GPS. A suspect, 40, with a police record, was arrested shortly after on suspicion of the break-in.

Clean beaches

Meanwhile, at Lake Kinneret, in contrast to the serious pollution problem on its northeastern beaches reported over the past few days in Haaretz, the open beaches, which comprise 24 out of the total of 55 kilometers around the lake, were surprisingly clean, due to an operation underway by the Kinneret administration, funded by the Environmental Protection Ministry with the assistance of the INPPA.

A clean-up contractor has been hired and INPPA field instructors are handing out trash bags to vacationers to help in the project.

Roads to the Western Galilee were busy as visitors traveled to vacation spots and festivals in the region. Among the attractions is an extreme sports area at Kibbutz Yehiam, a festival at the Montfort Castle in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, the "cotton road" at Kibbutz Afeq and a monologue theater festival at Acre.

Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited Rosh Hanikra and tried out its zip line.

The Western Galilee tourism association said they were satisfied with the numbers of visitors to the region, although they noted that the traffic jams were not as serious as previous years showing that numbers were down. Hotels and bed and breakfasts reported a 90-percent occupancy rate.