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Israelis flock to national parks, making up for drop in foreign visitors

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

A group of Israelis ride horses through the Jordan River, near Dardara National Park in northern Israel, June 28, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A group of Israelis ride horses through the Jordan River, near Dardara National Park in northern Israel, June 28, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Coronavirus restrictions on entry to Israel have failed to dent the number of visitors to national parks and nature reserves this summer, with Israelis compensating for the dramatic drop in foreign travelers.

During July and August, some 1.9 million people paid to enter Israel Nature and Parks Authority facilities, of whom just 24,000 were tourists from overseas. The total number was the same as the figure recorded in 2019, before COVID-19 struck, when 405,000 visitors were from abroad.

The most popular sites have been Gan Hashlosha, also known as Sakhne, with 131,000 visitors, 2,000 more than in 2019; Horshat Tal in northern Israel’s Upper Galilee (100,000, up from 76,000 in 2019); Tel Ashkelon in southern Israel, (95,000 compared with 82,000); Snir in northern Israel (87,000, down from 99,000 in 2019); the Yarkon-Tel Afeq National Park in central Israel (82,000, up from 58,000); and Tel Dan in the north (81,000, up from 61,000 in 2019).

The most popular campsites are in the north at Horshat Tal, Achziv, Ma’ayan Harod and the Mishmar Hacarmel Farm.

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