Eilat Bay

Eilat was in ‘lockdown’ this week in protest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government’s controversial decision to close down Sde Dove Airport in Tel Aviv.

Border crossings in Eilat, the airport, Egged public bus company, municipality services, government offices and shopping areas and many schools went on strike until 2pm to voice objection to politicians.

And Eilat mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, vowed to go on a hunger strike today if Netanyahu does not extend Sde Dov’s operation until July 2020 at least.

Halevi called on Netanyahu to abstain from any decision regarding the airport, given upcoming elections.

Utilised for internal flights, Sde Dov is scheduled to shut July 1, but its demise has angered many Israelis and travellers.

And following the ‘lockdown’ situation, there was confusion yesterday as neither Ramon Airport’s official website nor flight tracker websites had details of flights to the airport.

“The new Ramon Airport is going to be a great gateway to Eilat but let’s say its opening is somewhat chaotic,” said Jewish Weekly travel expert Malcolm Ginsberg, a regular visitor during its construction. “The airport is complete and has passed all the safety and technical checks but when it comes to telling the travelling public what is going with the actual flights there has been a let down in communications.

“One thing for sure is services to Eilat from Luton will not start until the end of October.

“Currently there are no flights from the UK to Eilat. Flights land at Ben Gurion Airport before a domestic connection to Eilat City Airport.”

The furore over Sde Dov is linked to the opening of Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport in the southern Negev in January 2019.

The airport received Ryanair flights from Poznan, Poland and Prague, Czech Republic earlier this month, though it is believed this was a test flight.

Israel Airports Authority stated at the time more destinations would follow.

Ramon Airport replaces Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport as a new international gateway to Southern Israel and the Red Sea, and is expected to handle up to 2 million passengers a year rising to 4.2 million passengers by 2030.

The airport will handle low-cost and charter flights from Europe which land at Ovda Airport including Ryanair, WizzAir and easyJet.

Ramon Airport is named after Israel’s first astronaut who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and his son, an Air Force pilot who died in a training accident.

By Adam Moses