A record number of visitors toured the Gush Etzion region of Judea this week during the intermediate days of Passover. Local authorities estimated tourism at 15,000 visitors, from Israel and around the world.
Many local sites saw high levels of interest, among them the regional bike trail and freshwater springs.
One of the most popular sites was the Herodium, the ruins of an ancient palace and town built by Herod on a hilltop in the Judean desert. Thousands of visitors came to the site each day.
Another popular destination was Havat Eretz Haayalim – Deer Land – which had to close its gates to newcomers as roughly 6,000 people came to visit. Deer Land boasts many attractions, including a climbing wall, carousel, and bungee trampoline.
Site manager Lior Levi said, “As happy as we were to see so many people visiting the farm, we had to close earlier than we thought because there was no room left. We left disappointed faces, who heard about the farm by word of mouth.”
Levi added, “We invite everyone to come visit during the rest of the year.”
One of the visitors was new Education Minister Shai Piron of Yesh Atid, who came with his family. The family started at the Herodium and continued with a jeep tour of the Maaleh Amos region in the Judean desert. They went on to visit a local dairy farm and a historic site dedicated to those who fell defending Gush Etzion in the War of Independence.
Piron also met with Davidi Perl, head of the local Regional Council, to talk about education in the region.