Israelis Pour into Biblical Heartland for Holiday Hikes

“Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for unto thee will I give it.'” Genesis 13:17 (The Israel Bible™)

Many thousands of Israelis took advantage of the beautiful Passover weather—and fought through nasty traffic—to hike in Israel’s ancient landmarks, parks, and nature reserves on Sunday.

“Already by the morning hours, tens of thousands of travelers visited the nature reserves and national parks, and especially the water sites and beaches,” noted Ra’ya Sorki, head of the public and community branch of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority.

At the Sea of Galilee in particular, there were so many visitors that at least nine beaches were filled to maximum capacity.

The masses of traveling Israelis predictably caused traffic jams throughout the country, as the Israel Nature and Parks Authority tallied approximately 180,000 nature enthusiasts entering the parks in just the first few hours of the day.

Israel’s nature sites and recreational parks were not the only locations that Israelis chose to visit today, however. Thousands of Israelis elected to tour some of Israel’s historic landmarks in Judea and Samaria, which has been frequently targeted in terror attacks in recent months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter before the holiday specifically encouraging visits to the region.

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“We’re very happy that the prime minister himself sent out a letter encouraging the nation of Israel to visit the biblical sites in the biblical heartland of Israel all over Judea and Samaria,” said Miri Maoz-Ovadia, spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

The Binyamin region is located just north of Jerusalem and south of the rest of Samaria. Included among its historic sites are the location of the biblical Tabernacle in Shiloh and the historic Patriarchs’ Path.

“I think we’re mostly thankful and happy to see such an official recognition of the importance of the history, especially on a holiday that speaks about remembering the history and passing it on to the next generation.” Maoz-Ovadia said.

Particularly on the Passover holiday, many Israeli sightseers wish to visit places that resonate with the Jewish people’s history in the region.

Israelis swim in a natural spring water, in the outskirts of Jerusalem duirng the Passover holiday, April 24, 2016. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israelis swim in a natural spring water, in the outskirts of Jerusalem duirng the Passover holiday, April 24, 2016. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The celebrations and activities that will be taking place in Samaria, the Binyamin region, in Gush Etzion, in the Hebron region, and in the Jordan Valley will all emphasize the biblical and archaeological aspects of the sites, because on Passover that is what people are looking for,” explained Maoz-Ovadia to TPS. “They are looking to connect to Israeli history as well as nature. If you want to have a family outing that is meaningful, this is the place to do it.”

One such outing occurred today in the Gush Etzion bloc of the Judea region, located just south of Jerusalem, in which dozens of Israelis trekked from the Gush Etzion Junction to the nearby community of Karmei Tzur.

The walk commemorated Eliav Gelman, a 30-year-old reserve officer in the IDF from Karmei Tzur who was killed in a friendly fire incident during a Palestinian stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction in February.