Situated in the southernmost point in Israel, combining sea and desert, Eilat‘s reputation precedes it as Israel‘s main vacation resort. Theme hotels, beautiful beaches, sunshine and warm weather all year round – are only some of the contributing factors to the city‘s major appeal. Eilat is also a bustling port, providing Israel‘s only naval outlet to Africa and the Far East
Eilat is mentioned in the Bible numerous times. For example, on the way to the land of Israel the Israelites “passed by the way of the plain of Eilat” (Num. 33:35). King Solomon built there a navy of ships that brought back gold and spices from faraway lands. After the biblical period the city changed hands, and names, many times. Eilat‘s importance gradually declined, particularly after the Ottoman Turks built a new port at Aqaba (today in Jordan). Up until 1949, Eilat was little more than a small Turkish police station called Um-Rashrash.
Since Israeli independence and the opening of the Straits of Tiran in the 1956 Sinai War and in the 1967 Six Day War, the town has gradually grown into the major resort it is today.
In 2004, Eilat‘s population was almost 57,000 residents, with only 30% of the residents having lived in the city for more than 10 years. Many of the residents are new immigrants to Israel, and most work in the tourist industry. In addition, in 2002, a branch of Beersheva‘s Ben Gurion University opened in Eilat, attracting more young people to the city.
The Red Sea is one of the Eilat‘s main attractions. Water activities in Eilat include water-skiing, banana boating, parasailing, and swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Reef. The Red Sea is also one of the world’s most spectacular underwater preserves. You can see brightly colored coral and many different species of fish. In addition, there are glass-bottom boats and an underwater observatory, where visitors can enjoy the rich sea life in the Gulf of Eilat without actually getting wet. Hiking in the desert mountains and biking are only a few of Eilat‘s dry outdoor activities. Less well known is the fact that Eilat is one of the best places in the world for bird watching. Approximately one billion birds pass through the area between the Mediterranean coast and the Jordan Mountains, making southern Israel the site of one of the greatest concentrations of migrating birds in the world.
Raising The Ink Flag in Eilat
Early in March 1949, while Israel was still fighting Arab countries in the War of Independence, two Israeli brigades made their way down south, to the police station of Um-Rashrash, held at the time by the Jordanian Army. On March 10th, the Israeli forces took hold of the police station without having to fire a single shot. The soldiers, who discovered they did not have an Israeli flag at hand, quickly improvised one by painting some blue ink onto a sheet and raising it.
Two hours later the brigade commanders sent the following telegram to their front commander:
INFORM THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL THAT ON THE BIRTHDAY OF THE “HAGANAH” 11TH ADAR — THE PALMACH NEGEV BRIGADE AND THE GOLANI BRIGADE HAND OVER THE GULF OF EILAT TO THE STATE OF ISRAEL. EILAT (UM RASHRASH), 9TH ADAR, 10TH MARCH 1949, 16:00 HOURS.
This act, know as “Operation Uvdah”, was the last military operation in the War of Independence.
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