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The Train to Eilat Posted by on Jan 21, 2019 in Today's Israel

Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city, located far away from the country’s main population centers.

פסי רכבת בנתיבי איילון by Urilei on Wikimedia Commons under public domain

Situating on the Red Sea shores, Eilat is a popular resort town. The mountainous desert landscape, the beautiful bay, and the summer sun that shines all through the year attract more than 2 million visitors every year. Most of them are Israelis. The dive sites, the nightlife, and the free trade zone make Eilat a popular destination for domestic tourism (תַּיָּרוּת פְּנׅים).

Two airports (נְמַל תְּעוּפָה) provide comfortable access to the vacation city. Eilat airport is located inside the city and handles domestic flights. Uvda airport, located in a military base nearby, handles the international flights. The new Ramon airport due to open this coming winter is expected to replace these two airports. Located only 20 kilometers from Eilat, the modern airport will handle both domestic and international flights to the city.

If you are an Israeli or a tourist (תַּיָּר) already travelling in Israel and prefer not to fly to Eilat, your only other option is to get there by car or bus. You can take a taxi, rent a car or drive your own one. If you want to take the train (רַכֶּבֶת) you can’t – there is no train to Eilat. The southernmost train station (תַּחֲנַת רַכֶּבֶת) in Israel is located near the city Dimona, 168 kilometers north of Eilat.

Plans to construct a long railway (מְסִלַּת בַּרְזֶל) to transverse the Negev all the way to the Red Sea have been discussed by the Israeli government since the 50’s. The security situation motivated an alternative transportation (תַּחְבּוּרָה) route that bypasses the Suez Canal. The demography situation encouraged such project as well: the Negev covers more than half of Israel, but is populated by only less than 20% of Israel population. The government wishes to develop the region by encouraging trade of the Negev’s natural resources: minerals, like phosphates and salt. Transporting goods by train could promote the Negev factories and quarries and Eilat port (נָמֵל).

But laying a railroad along a route of hundreds of kilometers requires quite a budget. Over the years, the need to expand the trainline was raised from time to time, but always declined due to budgetary (תַּקְצִיבִי) limitations and doubts about the profitability (רִוְחִיּוּת) of the project. In 1975, for example, Israel Railways CEO claimed the train to Eilat was a top priority. Short sections of railways were built over the years for a freight train (רַכֶּבֶת מַשָּׁא), but most of the transportation (תּוֹבָלָה) south is still done by trucks, and most of Israel nautical exports and imports are conducted via Ashdod and Haifa ports.

In 2009, a couple months after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected again, the government held its meeting in Be’er Sheva. For the first time in its history, the government relocated its weekly meeting from the capital of Israel to the capital of the Negev. It wasn’t by chance. Netanyahu announced upcoming projects aiming to attract more inhabitants and to create more jobs in the south of Israel. Among them was again the train to Eilat. Netanyahu planned to renew the planning of railway line to connect the southern port city to Dimona.

 

Israel’s cabinet approved construction of a new train line to Eilat in 2012. Statutory planning of the line has already begun. The new electric rail line will link Israel’s periphery to its center. With a top speed of 300 kilometer per hour, the train will complete its trip from Tel-Aviv to Eilat in two and a half hours. A year later, in 2013, the Ministerial Committee approved its route. But now, five years later, the construction hadn’t begun yet.

Chances are you will visit the new Ramon airport, built from scratch in five years, before you will comfortably relax on your train seat to Eilat.

 

Text vocabulary

Tourism = תַּיָּרוּת

Domestic tourism = תַּיָּרוּת פְּנׅים

Tourist = תַּיָּר

Transportation = תַּחְבּוּרָה, תּוֹבָלָה

Port = נָמֵל

Airports = נְמַל תְּעוּפָה

Train = רַכֶּבֶת

Freight train = רַכֶּבֶת מַשָּׁא

Train station = תַּחֲנַת רַכֶּבֶת

Railway = מְסִלַּת בַּרְזֶל

Budget = תַּקְצִיב

Budgetary = תַּקְצִיבִי

Profitability = רִוְחִיּוּת

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Comments:

  1. Omer G. Moreno:

    Will C how it goes. I’ll decide if it is for me

  2. Omer G. Moreno:

    Will C how it goes. It is promessing. I’ll decide later if it is for me.