Israeli search-and-rescue units prepare for tourist season post-desert flooding

Recent flash floods underscore the need for visitors to the Negev Desert to be vigilant of changing conditions, especially as tourists arrive for the Passover holiday season.

An Israeli search-and-rescue unit in the Arava in Israel's Southern District. Credit: JNF-USA.
An Israeli search-and-rescue unit in the Arava in Israel's Southern District. Credit: JNF-USA.

Flash-flooding at World Heritage Site Timna Park in Israel’s southern Negev Desert has led to calls from officials for tourists to exercise caution ahead of the Passover holiday.

Gilad Dotan, head of search-and-rescue in the Arava, said tourists need to be mindful of local directives.

“I want to warn everyone coming to the southern Negev that while it is beautiful, it can also be dangerous when intense rainfall leads to flash flooding, as was the case this week,” he said. “I urge everyone visiting this region to resist crossing roads and paths during flooding events, and if you do get into trouble, call 100 for the police and they will put you in touch with our units.”

Arava search-and-rescue teams help stranded hikers in the Negev Desert. Credit: JNF-USA.

As Israeli tourist operators welcome a 20% increase in foreign tourists vising the Jewish homeland in February, additional philanthropic investments are being made by organizations like Jewish National Fund-USA to keep visitors and locals safe.

JNF-USA’s Richard and Nancy Simches Arava Emergency Response Center (ERC) serves as a central command station for the area, housing both police and fire personnel, gathering all essential emergency units, and allowing a more coordinated, efficient, prompt and functional response to any urgent event or crisis. The facility brings together volunteers and professionals to protect, guard, and save lives in this remote region, providing them with the tools, equipment, and knowledge.

Jewish National Fund-USA’s Richard and Nancy Simches Arava Emergency Response Center (ERC). Credit: Courtesy.

And with peace of mind provided by the region’s first responders, the Timna Park’s Chudnow Visitor Center is preparing for a packed month of April as many Israelis travel through the park during Passover.

“We welcomed more than 20,000 visitors in March and expect over 250,000 during the upcoming holidays,” said Richard Summers, director of resource development for the Eilot Regional Council.

“The park’s accommodation is fully booked for Passover as many visitors want to experience Timna’s wonders both during the day and night,” he added. “After the challenges of recent years, Israel’s Negev is alive with activity. We’re hosting more tourists as well as thousands of new residents who move here every year.”

For more information, see: my.jnf.org/timna

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Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
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