Israelis took advantage of the nice weather of the long Sukkot weekend, with more than half a million visiting forests, national parks and nature reserves across the country.
In total, some 150,000 visited the JNF forests, while considerable activity was recorded at Caesarea National Park, Ein Hemed, Tzipori and Mamsheet National Park.
On Saturday, tens of thousands visited the Nature and Parks Authority's nature reserves, In the south, many visitors were reported in HaBesor in the Negev and HaMalachim (Angels) Forest near Kiryat Gat; in central Israel, there was was a high number visits to Ben Shemen and Canada Park, while the north saw multiple visits to the Biriya and Baram forests.
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The Nature and Parks Authority said that it was prepared for the many visitors at its sites during the seven-day Sukkot holiday, but asked anyone planning to travel south to get updates on the weather conditions in the coming days for fear of floods.
On Saturday, thousands of travelers visited Lake Hula and enjoyed the sight of 10,000 migrating cranes currently in the region. The JNF said the sightseeing trend was expected to continue in full force in the coming days, and highlilghted that its activities and guided tours are open to the public free of charge.
Nor did the Israeli public neglect the various water attractions, and tens of thousands of people visited the lakes and ponds in northern Israel. The highest number of visits was to campsites around the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). According to the Kinneret Association of Municipalities, on Saturday alone 12,000 people visited the Kinneret; from the beginning of the holiday the total number reached 45,000.
Most vacationers arrived with tents to stay at the Kinneret for several nights, and even the rain and winds didn't deter them. Several sukkahs were set up at some of the beaches to accommodate those interested in observing the religious aspect of the holiday.
The beaches' occupancy has been standing at 85 percent so far, and many of the travelers joined free Kinneret trail tours guided by rangers from Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
Southwest from there, about 4,000 travelers went to the national park in Tzipori in the Lower Galilee to participate in the "Ancient Artisans" festival held at the historic site. Actors recreated ancient crafts and there were also children's activities, musical performances, arts and crafts and more. As part of the festival, which continues through Sunday, a restored carriage used in Roman times was on display.
Even the less-known Israeli sites attracted the sightseers; 4,000 Israelis visited the Jezreel Valley Railway at Moshav Elro'i, in the Haifa region. Cars and locomotives from the original valley railway are displayed at the site, as well as the train station that was used in the 1920s and 30s. The entrance is free of charge and includes various activities.
Another activity expected to attract tens of thousands of Israelis was to begin Saturday night, with the opening of the three-day Acre Theatre Festival. As a result, streets and intersections will be closed to traffic each night from 7:30pm to 11:30pm, and the police will direct the traffic in the area.