The airport in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa will be expanded to allow for additional international regional flights in the future, the Transport Ministry announced.
The government decision about the small facility comes as the nearly three-month-old war with Hamas in Gaza has brought foreign tourism in Israel to a virtual standstill.
The two-year plan to upgrade the airport is intended to offer increased travel opportunities for both Israelis and tourists to regional destinations including Greece, Cyprus and Jordan, Transport Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia told JNS on Monday.
The facility was established by the British at a Royal Air Force base in 1934 and was the first international airport in the country.
Ben-Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv is the main airport in Israel.
The airport in Haifa, which is limited by the short runway space available, had resumed service to Greece and Cyprus last summer after a four-year hiatus due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, only to have service stopped again following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack from Gaza and the tensions in northern Israel with Hezbollah.
“The development of the airport in Haifa and expansion of its international activity is another stage in the development of the Haifa metropolitan area and the north of Israel especially during these days,” Transport Minister Miri Regev said in a written statement.
The development plan will enable both domestic and regional international flights to operate to and from the northern Israeli airport when security conditions allow it, but will not service transatlantic flights.
Though efforts were made over the years to lengthen the airport’s sole runway, this proved difficult due to the airport’s proximity to Haifa Bay, which is also being used for the seaport, an Israeli Navy base and other marine activities.
The infrastructure plan is intended to both benefit the residents of northern Israel and to make it more accessible for foreign tourists.
Tourism Ministry officials had been expecting a near-record four million incoming visitors in 2023, only to see tourism collapse over the last three months after the Oct. 7 attack.
Some 4.5 million foreign tourists visited in the record-breaking 2019.
About three million tourists came to Israel last year, according to preliminary figures released last month.