by Edgar Asher
The Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat seems to be changing on an almost daily basis. Its popularity grows all the time with both Israelis and overseas visitors. With hotels and restaurants to suit every pocket and taste, Eilat is the ideal holiday town with every type of water activity, plus its world-famous marine park.
Eilat also sells itself as a tax-free haven, because there is no value added tax on anything, even for Israelis. Air conditioned and modern shopping arcades and shopping areas are found all over the city, and bargains are not hard to find.
For many years the broad walk that runs for several kilometers along the sea front was a bone of contention as far as the local authority was concerned. At places it was very narrow as the souvenir stalls took up a large percentage of the available area. The younger visitors to the city certainly liked the stalls to browse around, but to many visitors they were an intrusion as many owners had blaring music issuing from their booths. Also there were few places to sit to just contemplate the lovely view of the Bay of Eilat. Most stalls also were illegal, thus the municipality earned little income, but was still responsible to keep the sea front promenade clean.
The municipality wanted to close down the stalls for many years and move them away to a special area set back a little from the sea front. For years the stall owner refused to move and eventually the issue was taken up by the courts after the municipality insisted that illegal booths be removed. After much argument the courts found in favor of the municipality and the stalls were forced to close and relocate.
Now the broad walk is a pleasure to stroll along and the shops and restaurants are permanent and clean and tidy. However the municipality set up a new area at the heart of the broad walk where stall owners can set up and the visitors can stroll around until their heart’s content. The new souvenir stalls are uniform in design and the whole area has an attractive thatch roof that protects the stall owners and the visitors from Eilat’s strong summer sun. The new arrangement is both aesthetic and practical and nobody misses out from a real bargain.
There is much going on in Eilat today. Some fifteen kilometers north of the town a new international airport is being constructed and should be ready for the first flights in about two years time. The airport will be connected to Eilat by high speed train for the short journey. Eventually there will be a high-speed train connection between Tel Aviv and Eilat. The present airport in the town will be decommissioned and there will be a development of hotels, homes, shops and public amenities. Discussions are said to be going on between the Israel government and the Chinese as far as the future planning and building of the railway between Eilat and the rest of the country is concerned.