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Vespa Adventures: Oy! Pesach Driving.

Israel for Pesach? Advise: Stay away from the highways!

Driving during Pesach is only for the brave here in Israel and maybe those looking to catch up on their reading. Beware:

“Traffic jams were reported throughout Israel on Monday, in the first sign of what has become an annual nationwide gridlock ahead of the Passover dinner.”-From Haaretz.com.

For Israelis, Passover is usually a time for family travel, particularly those who are not observant and don’t mind missing the family seder. With the kids off from school for two weeks and most companies offering half days during the holiday’s four intermediate days, it’s the perfect time to take a trip. (College students and most military personal also get this time off, so basically everyone is everywhere and things are crowded.) 

A look at these numbers below and you can see why it is best not to avoid traveling on the highways during Pesach Holiday:

  • National parks see 210,000 visitors Monday morning: Some 170,000 people visited Israel’s national parks and nature reserves on Monday morning, the Nature and Parks Authority reported. Nahal Meshushim was temporarily closed due to visitor overload. (from YNet.com)
  • Israeli parks filled to capacity on Passover: National parks and nature reserves are filled to capacity, JNF reports (http://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-of-thousands-head-for-green-pastures-on-fourth-day-of-passover/) “The Jewish National Fund estimated that two hundred thousand tourists were visiting Israel’s green spots — forests, parks, and fields — by midday Tuesday, the fourth day of Passover. Other reports indicated that up to half a million tourists were out and about in national parks or nature reserves throughout the day.”  Whew.
  • Out of slavery, into nature: Over 300,000 flock to parks and forests to ring in Passover. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported 45,000 visitors to national parks and another 100,000 visitors to open spaces under the authority’s supervision. (http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/out-of-slavery-into-nature-over-300-000-flock-to-parks-and-forests-to-ring-in-passover-1.423176)
  • Still, about 1,500 came to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve on the Dead Sea, and another 1,500 people visited Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne ) National Park in the eastern Jezreel Valley. A thousand visitors came to Tel Dan and about 2,000 to Banias Nature Reserve, both in the far north.(http://shalomj.com/israelis-flocked-to-the-parks-during-the-passover/ -Neat little blog, too!)
 All of those numbers represent people who traveled on the roads during the holiday week, and the roads here (while good) aren’t as accommodating for larger amounts of traffic that appears during the holidays. (The main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusleam is two lanes for both directions. This road also climbs, or decends, the Judean Mountains, so this already causes slower speeds at certain turns. When you add in the “Shabbat Drivers” and truck drivers in normal traffic, things get slow and frustrating fast. But throw in all of that with the amount of traffic produced by the holiday, you quickly have a huge mess on your hands.) Thus many of those people expecting to spend their days on the beach or in a national park, spent a good amount of their time sitting on the highway, in dense traffic for miles. Some of the smarter travelers thought they’d beat the crowds and head over to “secret destinations” that only they knew about, only to quickly  find out that their secret was in fact well known and many people were already there enjoying themselves.

Unless, of course, you choose to travel on roads like these:

 I decided not to even try to get in all of that mess on the highways, as we were in the kibbutz for the holidays and there wasn’t a need to venture back towards highway 1. It was rather easy to find other adventures around the Abu Ghosh/kibbutz area, where traffic was rather mild and easy to handle and everything needed was there. I did notice more people around the parks scattered around the kibbutz, but the traffic was easypeasy compared to what you could view below Abu Ghosh, on Highway 1.

 Here is a Google Map of the Abu Ghosh/ Kibbutz Ma’ale Hachmisha area and the various routes to take in the area:

(Click to enlarge the photos/map.)

There are also a few more [lesser known or visited] national park areas, on both sides of the kibbutz, that I did not point out here. (So there are even more options for hiking and exploring!)

As you can see, living in the kibbutz has its advantages: there are endless trails for hiking and various roads around this area to further explore- if you have the time and curiosity. There is also a hotel that the kubbutz owns currently (although not for much longer) where you can lounge and enjoy yourself also. When I first bought my vespa, I gained my confidence with driving again on these roads and drove on the road between the kibbutz and Nataf daily. That particular road has some of the best views I’ve seen in the Judean Mountains, so to be so close to it was a blessing this past holiday.  You can even see down to the sea, from this road, on a clear day. It takes about 10 minutes (less for cars) to to Nataf and is a beautiful winding road. There will be an upcoming post about Nafaf area shortly with a video and photos, and I really hope to get the Abu Ghosh post up soon also.

I know that it might very well be impossible to avoid all driving out on the highways during this holiday, but just be aware of what the reality is and that you will likely encounter heavy traffic and delays during your road trip if you do choose to venture out to the various holiday retreats throughout Israel during Pesach.

A few more clicks to suggest, relating to driving during Passover and in general:

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About kaie w. bird

A freelance photographer in Israel that likes to scoot about while documenting just about everything. P.S. I am a horrible editor. Forgive me.

8 responses to “Vespa Adventures: Oy! Pesach Driving.

  1. Wow, your blog is great! I love looking at people’s travels here in Israel… know of any others?

  2. Great post. I was actually just at Ma’ale HaChamisha for a wedding. The view was beautiful. I also have family who lives just further up the road at Har Adar. As for the Pesach motoring crowds, well, I wasn’t in Israel for Pesach, but I had plenty of Israelis with me on the plane as we flew down from Israel to America just before the holiday began.

    Keep these posts coming; I can never get enough of Israel!

    • Thank you so much, Jason. I just wrote a post today about scaring some people off (who had subscribed to the blog) because of my recent post… so it is nice to know that a few people don’t mind them. I scoot to Har Adar all the time, for a little ride here and there. Those are some nice houses. And the weddings really make this place seem that much more stunning. Hope you have a good weekend and thanks again for your support.

Love to hear some of your thoughts below!

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