Passover: Israelis Go Down to Egypt, Egyptians Come Up to Israel

Huge numbers of Israelis ignored religious and security bans on traveling to Egypt over the Passover holiday

By Edy Cohen | | Topics: Passover
Israelis in Sinai
Israelis enjoy a beach holiday along the same Red Sea through which their forefathers once passed. Photo: Johanna Geron/FLASH90

Every year during the Passover holiday, the Jewish people commemorate their Exodus from slavery to freedom. From slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Land of Israel, the land which the Lord promised His people. This year, as in recent years, tens of thousands of Israelis choose to return to Egypt during the Passover holiday (a 20 percent increase compared to last year), this time not as slaves, but as tourists. In fact, there was even an increase in the number of religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish families “descending” to Sinai, equipped with kosher food, despite a religious prohibition based on several Bible verses.

Three different times in the Torah, it is suggested that the Jewish people are not to return to Egypt. 

“And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again” (Exodus 14:13).

“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again'” (Deuteronomy 17:16).

“And the Lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again…” (Deuteronomy 28:68).

Nor was there only a religious reason to avoid going to Egypt. Israel’s counter-terrorism agencies called on those Israelis in Egypt to immediately return home amid credible terrorist threats.

North Sinai is a very unstable region inhabited there are various terrorist organizations affiliated with ISIS, as well as rebels fighting the Egyptian regime. 

But many chose to flaunt both the religious prohibition and security threats and vacation in the Sinai, anyway. It is estimated that more than 40,000 Israelis went down to Egypt this Passover, attracted as they were by the pristine beaches and cheap family entertainment options.

At the same time, there was also an increase in Egyptian tourists arriving in Israel. Some 7,000 Coptic Christians from Egypt entered the Jewish state over the Passover week, which coincided with Good Friday and Easter.

The reciprocal visits by Israelis to Egypt and Egyptians to Israel signify, above all, a new era in relations between the two countries. Since the Camp David Accords, Israel and Egypt have been locked in a “cold” peace that now finally appears to be thawing.

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