Tens of thousands of Israelis thronged to the country’s national parks and beaches on Tuesday to take advantage of the election day holiday.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said some 150,000 people were visiting national parks and nature reserves as of midday Tuesday, while tens of thousands more enjoyed the warm weather at beaches across the country.
The most popular national parks were Caesaria, Masada, Beit Guvrin, Banias, Ein Gedi, and Tel Dan. The Authority was holding election-related activities for children. Zippori National Park and Einot Tzukim near the Dead Sea were holding a vote to determine Israel’s favorite migrating bird.
In Tel Aviv, major traffic jams were reported near the beaches and near the city’s fairgrounds, where a large open-air market was being held.
Army Radio reported heavy traffic in both directions on Route 2, the Coastal Highway, particularly between the Havatzelet and Olga junctions outside Hadera.
In Israel, municipal and national election days are designated a national holiday in a bid to encourage voter turnout. Intercity public transportation is free all day Tuesday.
As of noon, some 24.8 percent of eligible voters, or 1,574,349 Israelis, had cast ballots, according to election officials.
The turnout number was slightly down from 2015, when 26.9% had cast ballots by the same time, but did not represent a significant trend, Central Elections Committee director Orly Ades said.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday with exit polls expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. Official results are expected to come in overnight.