According to data recently released by the 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 says. “The hotels there are cheaper than those in the [southern] city of Eilat 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 says.
“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,” says Almog Berti, a 29-year-old who lives in Jerusalem.
“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 says.
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 Be'er Sheva, 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 says.
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 says. “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 says. “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.
Article written by Tara Kavaler. Reprinted with permission from The Media Line