Israelis took advantage of the fine spring weather on Sunday, with some 200,000 people visiting the country's national parks and nature reserves. The mass touring sparked heavy traffic jams, in particular at sites holding special activities for the Passover holiday, such as Caesarea National Park, which is hosting a festival on ancient times.
Thousands also visited Ashkelon National Park, which is holding jubilee celebrations, and the Herodion National Park, which opened a Nabatean market on Sunday morning. Water parks in the North also registered heavy traffic, including the Banias Nature Reserve, Nahal Ayun in the Galilee, Tel Dan, Snir, Ein Afek and Beit She'an Valley. Many people also flocked to Yarkon National Park, Bet Gubrin, Avshalom stalactite cave, Ein Gedi and Eshkol Park. By Sunday afternoon, it was a struggle to find a parking spot on the northern beaches.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) forests and parks also saw tens of thousands of visitors. Around 2,000 participated in the flower march in the Naftali Mountains of the Golan Heights, while a little south several thousand visited the Hula Valley.
Haifa too there were several events that attracted large crowds. The Carmel Center reported a large number of visitors taking advantage of its free entry to the zoo. The Hadar district was hosting the traditional Haifa International Theater Festival for Children and Youth, while the Binyamin Park also drew thousands of people. Haifa police said that despite the demand, events were taking place as scheduled.
Israelis have also been arriving in droves at the shores of Lake Kinneret since late Saturday night. The association of Kinneret cities reported that by Sunday morning, there were close to 20,000 people on the lake's shores. The beaches of Lavnun, Kursi, Shikmim, Tzinbari and Berniki had 100-percent occupancy.
Given the large number of people on the move, the roads soon became packed. During the day, there was heavy traffic on the coastal between Herzliya and Rishpon and later between Netanya and Yanai Junction. In the north, heavy traffic was mainly felt on roads 65, 70, 75, 722 and 754.
There was also heavy traffic on Route 1 from Kibbutz Galuyot Junction to Ganot. On Route 4, jams were reported from Rishon Lezion to Holon and around Ra'anana. In the south, Route 6 also reported heavy traffic from Sorek Junction to Kiryat Gat.
In the center, Ramat Gan Safari Park was also crowded, while Ariel Sharon Park was closed to further visitors after it announced that it was filled to capacity. In Tel Aviv, all the parking lots were full and there was heavy traffic on Rokach Boulevard and in all directions around the port.
In Ramle, the city launched a week-long treasure hunt around its historical sites, with each team receiving a map including different clues and puzzles to be solved. The hunt will take place every weekday from 8am to 4pm.
There are a plethora of other activities planned around the country for the week of Passover , including free entrance and guided walks at the Hermon. Jerusalem's Deer Valley Park, where deer roam freely in the wild, is offering a tour of five natural and artificial ponds and visits to bird observation posts on birds. Entrance to the site is free.
Thousands also headed for Masada and the parks of the northern Negev, and in Herodion, tens of thousands flocked to the authentic Nabatean market. "This is a market that functions as it did in the Nabataean period," says Raya Shouraki of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
"The south has come to life," she says. "There are tens of thousands of visitors."
Ahiya Raved, Ilana Curiel, Raana Ben-Tzur and Gilad Morag contributed to this article.