Israeli tourists return to Sinai: “We’re not scared”

While severe travel warnings caution tourists to stay away from the unstable area, thousands of Israelis chose to spend the holiday in the Sinai Peninsula. This year, there was a rise of 30% in Israelis who visited Sinai for Rosh Hashanah, with whole families spending their vacation in a false sense of security.
Sinai Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Despite travel warnings that were clarified again for the holidays and are being publicly announced on loudspeakers near the border, as many as 10,000 Israelis decided to celebrate the new year in Sinai. “Why? Because it’s cheap,” said one of the vacationers.

The feeling while crossing the Israel-Sinai border after many years is that nothing has changed apart from a constant presence of security forces and checkpoints. The magical lagoons, the desert landscape and even the remains of hotels that were being constructed during the early 2000s remain in the same state.

“There is a bit of fear, but I live in Jerusalem. Statistically, the chance of something happening to me in Jerusalem is higher,” explained Bat-El Colman. “We didn’t tell the parents because there is fear. There are things that its best that mother knows only when you get back.”

A family enjoying Sinai's beaches Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Tourism in Egypt collapsed following the revolution in 2011 and terror attacks. There were 15 million visitors in Egypt in 2010, but the number fell to a third by 2016, with only 5 million tourists visiting. Nevertheless, in recent months, tourism began to recover. In the first seven weeks of 2017, the number of tourists rose by 54% in comparison to 2016.

This trend is noticeable also with Israeli tourists. During Rosh Hashanah, there was a dramatic increase in the number of Israelis entering the Egyptian peninsula, 30% more than during the holidays of the previous year. The cheap prices and sense of freedom are indeed irreplaceable, but the sense of security is a false one and everything may change in an instant. Meanwhile, both Israeli visitors and Sinai locals hope for a peaceful and carefree year.

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