Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s flag carrier, launched direct flights between Tel Aviv and Almaty on Thursday.
“We look forward to much stronger, closer and mutually beneficial cooperation with Israel. Great opportunities open up with the start of direct flights between our countries,” Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Israel, Satybaldy Burshakov, told the Tazpit Press Service.
“We believe that this will have a positive impact on expanding trade turnover, strengthening business ties, and increasing cooperation in the field of tourism and culture,” said Burshakov.
“People-to-people contacts are maintained in every possible way. Jewish people are an important part of Kazakhstani society and became a strong bridge of friendship between our countries,” he added.
The new flight is scheduled to operate twice weekly, on Thursdays and Sundays, using an Airbus A321LR aircraft between Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport and Almaty International Airport, the national gateway. Round trip tickets will cost $603 and $1,438 for economy and business class, respectively.
Flights from Tel Aviv have a travel time of just under six hours, with return flights being approximately an hour longer.
While Israeli citizens can now stay in Kazakhstan visa-free for up to 30 days, Kazakh citizens must obtain a visa before entering Israel.
Popular tourist destinations in Kazakhstan include the Charyn Canyon, often referred to as the Grand Canyon’s “little brother,” the Big Almaty Lake, a picturesque glacial lake located in the Tien Shan Mountains, and the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia.
Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, offers visitors a mix of modernity and history, including the Central State Museum, the Zenkov Cathedral, panoramic views from the top of Kok-Tobe Hill and colorful nightlife. Key attractions in the capital city, Nur-Sultan, include the iconic Baiterek Tower, the Nur-Astana Mosque and the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation.
The new line will also facilitate bilateral trade. Ambassador Burshakov told TPS that more than 160 joint Israeli-Kazakh business ventures are currently operating in Kazakhstan, with Israeli investments there amounting to around $60 million.
Israel and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in 1992 shortly after the Central Asian country gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bilateral ties focus on the sectors of education, medicine, agriculture and technology, as well as close defense and security collaboration. A number of Kazakh farmers and scientists have received training in Israel.
Jewish life has re-emerged in Kazakhstan after decades of Communist repression of religious life. An estimated 3,300 Jews live in Kazakhstan, with the largest communities in Astana, Almaty and Pavlodar. Astana’s Beit Rachel Synagogue is the largest in Central Asia.
Kazakhstan is a secular Muslim state that is tolerant of its religious and ethnic minorities, including Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian and Tatar communities, among many others.