With children off from school and many parents on a relaxed work-schedule, Israelis took to the country’s nature locales amid high temperatures and sunny skies.
The Jewish National Fund estimated that two hundred thousand tourists were visiting Israel’s green spots — forests, parks, and fields — by midday Tuesday, the fourth day of Passover. Other reports indicated that up to half a million tourists were out and about in national parks or nature reserves throughout the day.
The JNF stated that parking lots at nature reserves and national parks were fully packed. The Golan Heights and Lake Hula’s hotels were also at max capacity. The roads leading up north — to the Sea of Galilee and near the Carmel forest, just outside Haifa — were filled with traffic jams, Israel Radio reported, presumably with people craving a bit of rest and relaxation.
Jerusalem and its outskirts also received a record number of visitors, comparable to the amount the city receives on Independence Day, JNF reported.
The south of the country was bustling too: The parks near Yeruham, a village in the Negev desert that boasts majestic viewpoints, were filled to capacity with campers and hikers.
Among the most popular sites visited over the past few days were the Banyas Reserve, Gan Hashlosha (Sahne), Birya Forest, the Gilboa, the Jordan River and the Hula Valley.
JNF is a not-for-profit organization linked to the government that owns 13 percent of Israel’s land — and has planted more than 200 million trees in the country — since its inception.
Israel’s national tourism sites raked in 129 million shekels in 2011, which represented an increase of 4.5 percent from 2010.
A poll conducted by Dr. Mina Zemach found that some 44 percent of Israelis prefer the Sea of Galilee area as their favorite Israeli vacation destination — which is more than double the number who opt for Eilat (estimated at 18 percent) — Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Another 11 percent chose the Negev desert while six percent agreed that Jerusalem was the most desirable place for some time off.