A new idea for vacation
A new idea for vacationKahana Group

Israelis are known far and wide for their wanderlust. Wherever in the world you travel, be it South America, South Africa, Switzerland or Cyprus, you’re bound to hear the rapid-fire Hebrew and meet a fellow Israeli munching Bamba.

As incoming tourism rises annually, so does outgoing tourism, with more and more Israelis seeking the thrill of world-famous sites and attractions. The summer of 2019 alone saw 2.5 million Israelis traveling abroad for vacation, with the most popular destinations being the US, Eastern Europe, Rome and Greece and dozens of Israeli tourism companies arranging attractive group deals complete with chartered flights, private hotels, day trips and entertainment. For the Orthodox tourist, tours under Orthodox management are often particularly appealing as they guarantee kosher food, Shabbat (Sabbath) arrangements, and a Jewish atmosphere.

While many countries around the world have cautiously begun reopening their skies after coronavirus, Israeli skies remain mostly locked to incoming and outgoing summer vacationers. Thousands of hopeful travelers who reserved complete vacation packages months ago or even recently, certain that the pandemic would be a distant memory by August 2020, are now facing the disappointing reality that, this summer, they’ll be staying put.

The outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus in Israel, which began back in March, left no one unaffected. Stores were closed, schools were shuttered, and many businesses ground virtually to a standstill as the national lockdown was strictly enforced. While the vast majority of country has gradually returned to normal, the tourism industry remains in deep distress.

Yet the absence of foreign tourists in Israel coupled with the grounding of Israeli tourists prompted several Israeli tourism companies to do an about-face and reintroduce the Israeli tourist to the beauty and lure of the Holy Land.

One creative thinker is Yoni Kahana of the Kahana Group, a popular tourism company in Israel which specializes in five-star full vacation packages to Greece, Cyprus, and Europe for the Orthodox vacationer.

He explains, “Israel attracts millions of tourists each year who travel the country from the northern Golan Heights down to southern Eilat. So we were thinking, why not invite our own citizens to enjoy it?”

Every year, Kahana’s company escorts tens of thousands of travelers to assorted sites in Europe, with August by and large being its most popular travel month, when tourists travel to luxury hotels in Cyprus and Greece. This year, with thousands of their clients grounded in Israel due to travel restrictions, Yoni and his colleagues were determined not to let them down.

Exploiting hotel vacancies throughout the country, the Kahana Group signed a month-long contract with the brand-new 5-star Magdala Hotel that opened this year on the banks of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The hotel, originally built to host exclusively incoming tourists, features 150 deluxe rooms, and the Kahana Group is urging his clients and fellow Israelis to change course and enjoy a spectacular retreat in the breathtaking Galilee.

“These last months have been rough on all of us. People are stressed; the economy has absorbed a major blow; kids are home from school with few outlets. Even with finances tight, for many, vacation now is a must, more important than ever. We’re doing our utmost to replicate our foreign vacation packages abroad here in Israel by offering exhilarating day trips like kayaking and jeeping, full-course gourmet mehadrin (strictly kosher) meals, and nightly entertainment for our guests that abide fully by ‘Purple Badge’ coronavirus requirements and health regulations.”