Hundreds of thousands of voting and non-voting Israelis took advantage of the day off and unseasonably warm weather Tuesday by flocking to parks and nature sites across the country.
Nature and Parks Authority chairman Shaul Goldstein said in the morning that he expected some 70,000 to visit the national parks on Tuesday. By 6 p.m., about 100,000 had visited. Another 50,000 had gone to Jewish National Fund parks. And another 150,000 were day-tripping elsewhere, Israel Radio reported.
“On Independence Day, 90,000 people visited the national parks,” Goldstein had told Maariv, “and on the weekend after the big storm [in early January] we welcomed 60,000 visitors to see the rare site of rushing rivers [in the north].”
Law enshrines Election Days as holidays, giving Israelis a rare mid-week breather to enjoy — after exercising their democratic rights, of course.
According to Goldstein, polling stations were being placed on Tuesday at some of Israel’s nature reserves to enable people “their choice of the most beautiful locations” in the country from where to cast their votes.
While secular Israelis can enjoy nature sites every Saturday, religious Jews who do not travel on Shabbat must wait for secular holidays, like Election Day, to join the masses at parks, said Uzi Barzilai, director of community services for the authority.
Goldstein said the Nature and Parks Authority were operating on Tuesday as they do on Saturday both in terms of the staff on hand to receive the expected number of visitors as well as in terms of special programs available at the parks and reserves.
Shaul Ohana, director of the ski resort on Mount Hermon, said that with the ski slopes open and still containing snow, he expected a very busy Election Day.
Ohana was quoted in Maariv as saying that on Tuesday he intended to recruit an additional 40 employees for the site. “Currently we have 300 employees at our site,” Ohana said. “On Saturdays we increase our staff by 20 people.”
In Makhtesh Ramon, a large crater in the Negev desert, a visitor was killed when he fell some 100 meters (330 feet) from a cliff.