The Journey of Evolution Under the Shadow of Politics — Egypt 360

On April 17, the border crossing in Taba was crowded with thousands of “Israeli tourists” wishing to spend the Easter holiday in South Sinai. reach Their number at that time was more than 5 thousand people, among more than 40 thousand is expected They arrive in Sinai during the period of Jewish holidays.

I showed video clips The heavy traffic at the crossing gates and the long queue that extended for several kilometers. The Israeli Airports Authority, which is responsible for the land borders, expected that those long queues would continue this week; “Tourists” are advised to come during the afternoon and not in the morning when the crowds are peak.

At the same time, anger was growing on social media sites at the announcement of two Israeli companies that two different concerts were held in the resorts of Taba and Nuweiba, accompanied by Israeli security personnel to secure them. One of the two parties is organized by a soldier in the Israeli occupation army, according to what he introduces himself on his Facebook page andI moved it “BDS Israel Boycott Movement” in Egypt.

The pressure of “BDS” on the management of the “Tulip” hotel resulted in the transfer of the ceremony to another hotel, “Hilton Nuweiba”, which did not respond to any pressure to hold the two parties in the meantime under the warm Sinai sun and its golden sand, which ironically coincides with the anniversary of its liberation – the forty-ninth – from the Zionist occupation .

This kind of Zionist party was not the first of its kind in the charming resorts of South Sinai, and of course it may not be the last. But the coincidence of the two concerts with the anniversary of the liberation of the land and the storming of settlers – under the protection of the occupation police – into Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, shed light and sparked popular electronic anger.

As for the political context, it is at a time when there are more and more “warm and public relations” between the two governments. so announced About the first direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sharm El Sheikh – up to 9 weekly flights, according to the current agreement; to stimulate tourism. and preceded her take off Direct flights to Tel Aviv via the state-owned EgyptAir.

This is in addition to agreements to expand joint trade exchange and two announced visits by Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, to Egypt in just 6 months. A summit in the occupied Negev for the first time brought together the Egyptian Foreign Minister with his counterparts who signed the normalization agreements.

All these factors combined together, according to which the reception of Zionist parties became “unwelcome” and has always been popular. He again drew attention to “Israeli tourism”, which for a long time remained one of its favorite destinations, Sinai. It may witness an increase in numbers in the coming period, according to the government’s approach, which is trying to reduce tourism losses that were affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Tourism has witnessed a lot of development since the signing of the peace agreement in 1979 and has been affected by ups and downs by political events and the nature of relations that seem to be going through their heyday.

Israeli tourism…the first group after “Camp David”

In 1980, one year after the Peace Agreement Link To Egypt 6 thousand “Israelis” with the official opening of the borders in January of that year, and Sinai – whose entire soil was not restored at the time – was not the only destination, as it also included trips to Alexandria and Cairo, where those who wished to trace their Egyptian roots, at a time “The euphoria of the new peace agreement was still prevalent,” the newspaper put it.Christian Science MonitorIn its report in September of the same year.

Seven years later, the total number of “tourists” in Egypt during those years reached a record number, according to “Los Angeles Times’, which it said has been visited by 580,000 Israelis, or one-sixth of the population of 4.4 million, according to Israeli government figures.

And the newspaper pointed out in its report – dated December 9, 1987 – that the influx of tourists is one of the indicators that the long-term “cold peace” between the two former enemies is gradually giving way to more normal relations, at least at the grassroots level…or so I imagined .

The Egyptians cite examples of “ugly Israelis” singing Hebrew songs in public or angering shopkeepers with aggressive haggling. While Israeli visitors complain about delays caused by the Egyptian lax approach to punctuality,” the American newspaper says. “Most of the Israelis and Egyptians interviewed said they would be willing to fight another war, if necessary.”

In the first seven months of 1987, 33,000 “tourists” visited Egypt, double the number in the same period of the previous year, which was affected by the soldier’s murder. Suleiman Khater In October 1985, seven Israelis were shot dead in the Ras Barqa area on the border.

It is clear from the “Los Angeles Times” report that Alexandria, Cairo and Aswan were cities that “Israelis” loved to visit, especially the latter, in which one of them said that he always heard the voice of Israelis in the streets, during his visit to the tomb of the “Aga Khan” and their singing of Hebrew songs while crossing the Nile.

While a travel agent who has visited Egypt more than 20 times said he now finds fewer misconceptions, joking with the editor, “When I first went to Cairo, people thought all Israelis had three eyes.” He added that many of his friends go to Egypt twice a year only to shop where they buy new leather jackets and shoes.

To the newspaper, Egyptian shopkeepers, some of whom are war veterans, express ambivalent feelings toward their Israeli customers. “It is okay for them to come to Egypt, but I can never be friends with an Israeli,” said the owner of a perfume shop in Cairo who identified himself only as Muhammad. Ahmed, the owner of a jewelry store in the capital, also added, “The Israelis make me nervous because they bargain a lot, but work is work.”

Armed attacks affected the numbers

Three years after this report, a bus carrying Israelis on its way from Rafah to Cairo will be attacked in the city of Ismailia, killing 9 of them and wounding 17 others. An attack that the Egyptian government said at the time was planned abroad, while the occupation government accused the Palestine Liberation Organization of masterminding it.

AndHe said Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told Israeli television that the attack was “dangerous and horrific,” adding that “this attack proves that hatred for Israel still exists and is growing fiercer in the region.” While the US State Department described the attack as a “horrific terrorist act” and a “clear attempt by the enemies of peace to stop efforts for reconciliation and dialogue”, as it was a week before peace talks will be held in Washington.

Eight months later, on November 25, “a gunman in an Egyptian paramilitary uniform crossed the Egyptian-Israeli border near Eilat and opened fire on a bus and three vehicles carrying Israeli soldiers and workers. Four Israelis were killed and 27 wounded,” according to the “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1990” report issued by the US State Department.

The same report indicated that Khaled Abdel Nasser, the son of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, “was identified as the head of the Egypt Revolution Organization. He is also on trial for plotting attacks on American and Israeli interests.” so run out The organization had four armed operations, three of which were against members of the Israeli intelligence service “Mossad,” and the fourth was against an American working in the American embassy. But it did not succeed, and the three operations resulted in the killing of two Israelis.

Israeli tourism..a year of recovery

Naturally, the number of “Israeli” visitors was affected by these operations and also decreased in the following years with the extension of the wave of terrorism of the Islamic Jihad group, which included tourists of different nationalities. But with the calm situation at the beginning of the millennium, the numbers rose again before he killed him The bombing of the Hilton Taba hotelIn 2004 12 Israelis were killed.

The numbers fell with security concerns. But after six years and in 2010, the number of “Israeli tourists” in Egypt had reached more than 226,000, according to “The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Before it declined in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution of 2011, the number of tourists decreased to 133 thousand in 2012. Then these numbers began to rise gradually after that, reaching more than 140,000 in 2014 and more than 148,000 in 2015.

A report published in October by Israel’s Channel 2, for example, showed one tourist saying, “The security situation in Jerusalem is more dangerous than in Sinai.”

  Taba crossing on the Israeli-Egyptian border near Eilat.
Taba crossing on the Israeli-Egyptian border near Eilat.

Statistics from the Taba border crossing indicated that 14,270 “Israelis” crossed the border in June 2016, followed by 29,000 in July and 45,000 in August. These are similar numbers for the same period in the previous year. According to the data of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, the total number double In 2017, it reached about 234 thousand.

But 2019 was the year that set a record for the number of “Israelis,” as it more than tripled to reach 700,000 “tourists,” an increase of 20% over the previous year. according to The occupation embassy in Cairo, which at the time constituted approximately 5% of the total number of tourists. A number that fell sharply in 2020 and then, to a lesser extent, in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the same year (2021) the Minister of Intelligence, Eli Cohen, led Ma He said It is the largest official Israeli delegation to Egypt in 20 years, including officials from his office, as well as a trade mission of more than 20 Israelis to Sharm el-Sheikh to enhance cooperation in Egypt in the fields of economy, tourism, security and intelligence.

newspaper “Times of Israel“I quoted the return of Israeli tourism to the Sinai, a situation that took place in a city in Dahab. “Two young Israeli women were sunbathing by the water when a couple from Cairo came down next to them and asked in English what brought them to Sinai,” she says. Someone replied with an Israeli accent: We’re on a pre-army trip. The Egyptians seemed surprised, prompting the girl to explain that men and women were required to serve in the Israeli army. The girl explained: We have a lot of enemies. They stared at her quietly… before they moved away from her.”

But another tourist stated, “They really missed the Israelis. I was afraid to come here, but the people were very friendly and many of the workers spoke Hebrew.”

To compensate for Russian and Ukrainian tourism

At the end of last March, in the aftermath of the Russo-Ukrainian war, upload The Israeli National Security Council travel restrictions to the Sinai. This was after Bennett’s visit to Sharm el-Sheikh in the same month. Egypt is currently searching for alternative tourist markets as part of a government plan to increase the number of tourists in an attempt to save the vital sector affected by the war that stopped the flow of tourists from the two countries, which make up a third of the total number of tourists in Egypt annually.

In 2021, authorities completed the construction of a 36-kilometre concrete and wire wall around Sharm el-Sheikh with the aim of tightening security at a popular coastal attraction in a bid to lure tourists.

Says Paul Rivlin, a visiting professor of economics in the Middle East at Emory University, told Al-Monitor that direct flights between the two countries have great potential to stimulate Israeli tourism to Sharm el-Sheikh and will help Egypt overcome some of the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine.

But it will not be enough to compensate for the cumulative losses incurred by the tourism sector over the years, according to Magdy Selim, a former official in the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, who believes that direct flights between Egypt and Israel may boost Israeli tourism in the country, but called for the need to target other markets in Europe. East Asia and Latin American countries.

The official Israeli broadcaster Kan, mentioned That Israel is coordinating with Egypt to ensure the security of Israeli tourists who flock to Sinai to spend the Passover holiday, noting that “the Southern Command of the Israeli army has raised the state of alert along the travel axes on the Israeli side and in the Taba border crossing area.” She stressed that “the Israeli security establishment is closely monitoring the entry of Israelis into Sinai in order to ensure the security of tens of thousands who have arrived and are expected to arrive.”

He writes The branch of the boycott of Israel movement in Egypt about the spread of “Israeli tourists” in the Sinai, saying: “Every year we are proud and brag about the heroes of the 1973 war with our family and neighbors, and we listen to the stories of the valiant resistance and how we crossed what the Israeli enemy considered impossible. Unfortunately, as we prepare a celebratory publication, like every year, we discover that the Zionist occupation… is returning to Sinai again.”

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