Vacationers head to national parks

Gan Hashlosha and Tel Dan most visited outdoor sites.

National parks (photo credit: Amir Aloni/INPA)
National parks
(photo credit: Amir Aloni/INPA)
With summer-like temperatures and sunshine throughout the day, Israelis and tourists alike took to the country’s national parks in hordes on the first intermediate day of the Passover holiday.
About a quarter of million people visited the nature reserves and national parks managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) on Sunday, the authority reported as of about 6 p.m. that day.
Approximately 80,000 of these travelers patronized the paid parks and reserves, while 160,000 visited the many locations that have been made free of charge for the duration of the holiday and the rest spent time in sites that are always free.
The most visited places on Sunday were Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne) National Park, with more than 6,500 visitors; Tel Dan Nature Reserve, with more than 3,500 visitors; and Caesarea National Park, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and Ashkelon National Park – all with more than 3,200 visitors. Masada and Yarkon-Tel Afek had about 2,900 visitors, while more than 2,700 people visited the Banias Nature Reserve, according to the authority.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of these visitors stopped by the more than 30 INPA information stations spread throughout the country’s park-lands, where the staff members distributed garbage bags and general information about the sites to travelers.
“Today the exodus to Israel actually began, and thousands of travelers visited virtually every path from Tel Dan to the gulf of Eilat,” said Uzi Barzilai, manager of the INPA’s public and community division.
Many people took advantage of the beautiful weather, as well as the fact that parks have extended hours during Hol Hamoed, the festival’s intermediate days, allowing entrance until as late as 6 p.m., according to Barzilai.
Aside from the typical hiking and picnicking taking place in the country’s parks and reserves throughout the week, the next few days also feature several festivals, including the Festivpsolet (garbage festival) in the Jordan Valley, during which participants take part in tours and workshops, as well as play music on recycled instruments.
In Caesarea, a traditional horse show is taking place in the ancient hippodrome, and a Nabatean market greets visitors to the Negev’s Mamshit National Park. The Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve is offering special tours, while the Qumran National Park is featuring a dramatization of the life of Herod the Great, the INPA said.
While the numbers of park visitors were significantly higher on Sunday, Saturday was also a popular day for the country’s parks and reserves, with more than 150,000 people gathering at these natural sites and 110,000 of them visiting the temporarily free locations.
The most popular sites on Saturday were Eshkol National Park and Yarkon-Afek National Park, each with approximately 2,800, the Banias Nature Reserve (2,000 visitors), Masada (1,650), Caesarea National Park (1,550) and Ein Gedi (1,500), according to the INPA.
“Every year this is the busiest period for the people of the Nature and Parks Authority,” Barzilai said, “and we have arranged dozens of events, tours and festivals in nature reserves and national parks, with the goal of giving families the added value of education in addition to landscapes and fresh air.”