Down south for the holiday

Israelis head to Sinai despite warnings of terror attacks.

sinai huts beach 224 88  (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
sinai huts beach 224 88
(photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
Despite Monday's stabbing of an Israeli tourist in the Sinai resort town of Nueiba, and the ongoing threat of Hizbullah cells roaming the area with plans to carry out a terrorist attack, many Israelis say they still plan on relaxing at the various backpacker meccas and luxury hotels in Sinai. "I go to Sinai on average three times a year," said Linda Epstein, who made aliya from Halifax, Nova Scotia, 26 years ago. "I started going regularly about 15 years ago, and I haven't stopped going since. It's, statistically speaking, more dangerous to get in a car and drive in Israel than it is to go on vacation in the Sinai." Epstein explained that since the bombing of the Taba Hilton in 2004, she had seen Egyptian security personnel beefing up defenses in the area to keep tourists safe. "There's more police on the streets now," she said. "And there's checkpoints on the roads. I think they're making a real concerted effort to crack down on these types of things." But Epstein also said she had never felt unsafe in Sinai and that after enduring the second intifada while living in Jerusalem, she felt that danger was a relative term. "There's actually a great deal of serenity to be found in the Sinai," she said. "I go to a small place with no electricity, and just enjoy the quiet and relax. Terrorism is something that I think has become part of the existence around the world, and the only question is, will the Egyptians do what is needed to prevent or minimize the threat. Based on what I've seen there in recent years, I think the answer to that question is yes." Aliza Hava, a more recent immigrant from New York, told The Jerusalem Post that while she felt many of the Israelis who flock to Sinai despite the security warnings might be in denial, there were still reasons to go south. "I'm heading down there next week for a peace and music festival," Hava said. "It's going to include Israeli, Palestinian and Armenian musicians, among others, and I think, because we're going for a greater good, for peace, that God will send his protection. We're not just going down there to get drunk and hang out, but to each his own, every person is different." "Still," she cautioned, "when I read these reports in the newspaper about all the threats down there, I called one of my friends who was on her way down, and she just didn't want to hear about it. She said, 'I don't want to know, it doesn't affect me.' I guess she knows what she's doing, but like they say, denial isn't just a river in Egypt." And Israelis weren't the only ones who held out optimism after Monday's attack. In the resort town of Dahab, many hostel owners and hotel clerks said they had seen plenty of Israelis walking around freely. "The atmosphere is very nice down here," a woman at the Red Sea Relax Hostel told the Post. "But there's no Israelis at my hotel. I don't where they're staying."