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!)
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:
- There is a really great article about the who traffic mess during Pesach here in Israel over at YNet, but I cannot seem to find it in English. Thus, here it is if you want in Hebrew: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4213890,00.html.
- Here is a similar story, in English, worth a view: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=265608.
- Two general sites for tips about driving in Israel, here and here.