May 23, 2019

The Magic of Sinai

“On Passover, Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, which traditionally took place around 1300 B.C. Today, some 3,300 years after Jews were slaves to the pharaohs, Israelis are returning to Egypt in droves. The Egyptians of today are very gracious hosts, but Israeli security services warn that a trip to Sinai is still a dangerous adventure.

Loudspeakers set up at the Taba border crossing over the last few days blast the travel warning in a monotonous tone. In a statement released by the National Security Council, which was updated April 23, the threat is described as a “serious travel warning (Level 1).” The statement says, “In addition to [the Islamic State’s] activities, al-Qaeda members in the area are encouraging attacks on Israeli targets.” The statement recommends that all Israelis currently in the Sinai Peninsula leave “immediately” and return to Israel. “Anyone wishing to visit the Sinai is asked to refrain from doing so,” adds the statement.

But Israelis aren’t too concerned about these warnings, and continue to pour into Sinai. It is estimated that at least 40,000 Israelis, including families with children, will celebrate Passover in the peninsula, 20% more than Passover last year. Some of the vacationers responded to the warnings with amusement and even ridicule. For example, Lee Yaron, who writes for Haaretz, tweeted a photo of the smoke used to get rid of mosquitos in the huts favored by many vacationers. “Extreme measures are needed to deal with an Islamic State of mosquitos,” she wrote. The rush to Sinai also provided Israelis with an amusing new TV star, Hadassah Benizri of Jerusalem, whose interview on Channel 12 mocking the dangers (“There are more Israelis than Egyptians here”) went viral.”

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