Dudi Bokker, left, and his girlfriend Naama Maayan, both "twenty-something" Israelis, take a break from the stress of Israeli life on the evening of May 6, 2005 on Bir Sweid beach in Egypt's Sinai Desert. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Israelis’ Overseas Romance

Nearly half of all Israelis went abroad in 2019

According to data recently released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 4.3 million Israelis went abroad in 2019. Of these, 2.2 million departed more than once. This accounts for a little under 50% of Israel’s total population of approximately 9 million people.

The number of departures by Israelis totaled approximately 9.18 million, about 8.31 million of which were through Israel’s international airports. The number of departures overall marks an 8.3% increase since 2018 and a 6.6% increase in the number of flights exiting the country.

There was a 31% increase in the number of Israelis traveling to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. This was the location of choice for 499,000 of the 777,000 Israelis departing the country in a vehicle.

Shimon Abutbul, a 30-year-old Jerusalemite, is one of them.

“I went to the beach and strolled around the area,” he told The Media Line. “The hotels there are cheaper than those in the city of Eilat (in southern Israel) by over half.”

Dawn Marsden, a travel agent at Ophir Tours in Beit Shemesh, contends that the cost of vacationing in Israel drives many Israelis to go overseas.

“There’s definitely been an increase over the years of Israelis traveling overseas,” she told The Media Line. “Staying in Israel is pretty expensive compared to packaged trips abroad, especially in the summer to places like Greece.”

The amount of money Israelis save by going abroad is augmented by the advent of low-cost airlines.

“It used to be very expensive to travel; 10 years ago, it was outrageous,” Almog Berti, a 29-year-old who lives in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “In the last couple of years, prices have significantly decreased so more people can afford it.”

She contends that going abroad is also a way Israelis escape the high cost of living in the Jewish state.

“Israelis are addicted to shopping and the prices here are so high. People go to Europe for shopping and plan their visits accordingly,” Berti said.

Many Israelis say that travel has become a part of Israeli culture, which is perhaps cemented in by the overseas voyages of young adults who have completed their mandatory military service.

Yaniv Rosner-Wachs, 24, who studies at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, recently came back from what he calls his “classic post-army trip when an Israeli finishes his service and leaves to celebrate his freedom.”

“The act of traveling has become a symbol for finishing the army,” he told The Media Line.

Rosner-Wachs went to Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Laos in the span of six months.

Berti, who went to Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal in 2019, agrees that going abroad has become a mainstay of Israeli society.

“I think it’s a matter of social status; everyone does it,” she said. “It means you are more or less in a good financial situation even though it [doesn’t cost that much to fly anymore].

For Berti and other Israelis, travel is also a way to escape the political reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the constant threat the Jewish state faces from neighboring countries.

“When I’m abroad my mind is … free, you know,” Berti said. “I forget about crappy politics. … Being here is heavy on a daily basis.”

“I think I need a break from reality from time to time,” she said.

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