By Malcolm Ginsberg
No flights to Eilat
If you were thinking of taking a flight direct to Eilat to coincide with a stay for Passover, forget it. The new airport, called Ramon on Highway 90 and less than 15 miles from the centre of Israel’s southern gateway, will not be open in time.
The airport is substantially structurally complete but reports in the Israeli media suggest that the security aspects, always important to Israel, have not been satisfied. Ramon actually sits on the border with Jordan.
Up until the demise of Monarch last year, visitors to Eilat could fly to Ovda Airport, a military base with a civil operation, non-stop from Luton. It was hoped that perhaps easyJet or Wizz might come into the new airport. Now if you are visiting Eilat from Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester (or Stansted next summer) the only way down is via a difficult change at Ben Gurion, and onwards with Arkia or Israir, but without the facility of through luggage in either direction. Ovda is served from Continental Europe by a number of airlines including Finnair and Ryanair. Connections can be made from London.
Israel Airport Authority was unable to indicate a possible date for the airport’s start-up. When that happens the present operation, in the centre of the city, with only domestic flights, will close. www.ramon-airport.com
Fast train to Jerusalem
The long-awaited Tel Aviv – Jerusalem express will open on 30 March, the Israeli transport minister Israel Katz has announced.
The estimated $1.8bn project will cut journey times significantly, from the 78-minute ride on the old line built during the days of the Ottoman Empire, to just 28 minutes. It will link Tel Aviv HaHagana to Navon station, Jerusalem. Plans are also under way to extend the line to Herzliya and Karmiel.
A few months later a second track will open enabling services to increase to three trains per hour in peak times, with six trains per hour planned for the longer term. The trains will reach speeds of up to 100mph.
The building of the trainline has provoked controversy. Environmental activists raised concerns about potential damage to the protected hills and valleys surrounding the capital. However, their argument was dismissed by the Interior Ministry’s Planning Committee. The high-speed rail line also crosses the Green Line twice, once near Latrun and also near Mevasseret Zion which invited criticism from the Israeli left and pro-Palestinian groups. A German company advising the project withdrew in the face of pressure from activists.
“I have promised and I keep my word; on the Passover holidays we will take trains to Jerusalem”, said Katz, when the opening date was announced.
Dan Hotels, Bengaluru, India
Do not worry if you have never heard of Bengaluru. It used to be called Bangalore and is the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state and the centre of India’s high-tech industry. The city is also known for its parks and nightlife. Former royal residences include 19th-century Bangalore Palace, said to be modelled after England’s Windsor Castle, and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an 18th-century teak structure. You can fly direct from Heathrow.
Bengaluru has been chosen as the first overseas property for Dan hotels, a gesture toward Israel’s technology advancement and presence in the city.
Now open, and called The Den, it is beautifully appointed and situated near to the city’s IT parks and business areas. Dan Hotels says this property reflects the innovative and progressive elements that make modern day Bengaluru come alive, and is the smartest choice for luxury business travellers in the area.
With four different categories on offer, providing a total of 226 guestrooms and suites, guests can find the accommodation best suited to their needs. Visitors will be able to choose from various dining options, conference rooms and leisure facilities. Ideal for business and leisure guests, each room features the latest in-room technologies; mini bar; electronic safe; an exclusive espresso machine and 49 inch Smart Screen.
Dan Hotels has confirmed that kosher food is not currently available but efforts will be made to ensure this requirement is fulfilled for guests requesting in advance.
The Setai Tel Aviv
Jewish Weekly has used the official title but perhaps this new property, about to be opened, should be named the Setai, Jaffa. It is just at the point you enter Old Jaffa from Tel Aviv and even from the Dan Panorama and the Intercontinental it is a good mile.
The 120-room luxury hotel comprises five buildings of the former and historical Ottoman prison and police station, imaginatively transformed with contemporary touches and classic refurbishments. The Setai Tel Aviv’s marble and stone corridors connect the buildings and converge within a central courtyard. Original design details and stonework harmoniously compliment modern accents, converging with the restored Turkish Hamam Spa and infinity rooftop pool overlooking the entire Tel Aviv skyline. It is described as a prestigious five-star urban resort.
Also under way is the Setai Sea of Galilee, both hotels associated with the 38-floor Setai luxury property in Miami. The Setai Sea of Galilee will be a five-star deluxe resort with 110 rooms, of which 88 are suites with private pools or heated hot tubs. The Setai is the first new luxury resort to be constructed in the Galilee region in some time, and will feature Israel’s largest spa complex, featuring massage rooms, indoor pool, Turkish Hamam, and fitness centre.