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|— Municipality of Israel —|
|• Hebrew||אֵילַת (help·info)|
|• Type||City (from 1959)|
|• Mayor||Meir Yitzhak Halevi|
|— Municipality of Israel —|
|• Hebrew||אֵילַת (help·info)|
|• Type||City (from 1959)|
|• Mayor||Meir Yitzhak Halevi|
Home to 46,600 people, Eilat is part of the Southern Negev Desert, at the southern end of the Arava, adjacent to the Egyptian village of Taba to the south, the Jordanian port city of Aqaba to the east, and within sight of Saudi Arabia to the south-east, across the gulf.
Eilat's arid desert climate and low humidity is moderated by proximity to a warm sea. Temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in summer, and 21 °C (70 °F) in winter, while water temperatures range between 20 and 26 °C (68 and 79 °F). Eilat averages 360 sunny days a year.
The city's beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism.
The geology and landscape are varied: igneous and metamorphic rocks, sandstone and limestone; mountains up to 892 metres (2,927 ft) above sea level; broad valleys such as the Arava, and seashore on the Gulf of Aqaba. With an annual average rainfall of 28 millimetres (1.1 in) and summer temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) and higher, water resources and vegetation are limited. "The main elements that influenced the region's history were the copper resources and other minerals, the ancient international roads that crossed the area, and its geopolitical and strategic position. These resulted in a settlement density that defies the environmental conditions."
The origin of the name Eilat is not definitively known, but likely comes from the Hebrew root A–Y–L (Hebrew: א. י. ל.), which is also the root for the word Elah (Hebrew: אלה), meaning Pistacia tree. Like numerous other localities, Eilat is mentioned in the Bible both in singular (possibly construct state) and plural form (Eilot).
The original settlement was probably at the northern tip of the Gulf of Eilat. Archaeological excavations uncovered impressive prehistoric tombs dating to the 7th millennium BC at the western edge of Eilat, while nearby copper workings and mining operations at Timna Valley are the oldest on earth. Ancient Egyptian records also document the extensive and lucrative mining operations and trade across the Red Sea with Egypt starting as early as the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. Eilat is mentioned in antiquity as a major trading partner with Elim, Thebes' Red Sea Port, as early as the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt. Trade between Elim and Eilat furnished Frankincense and Myrrh, brought up from Ethiopia and Punt; Bitumen and Natron, from the Dead Sea; finely woven Linen, from Byblos; and copper amulets, from Timna; all mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. In antiquity Eilat bordered the states of Edom, Midian and the tribal territory of the Rephidim, the indigenous inhabitants of the Sinai Peninsula.
Eilat is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Exodus. The first six stations of the Exodus are in Egypt. The 7th is the crossing of the Red Sea and the 9th–13th are in and around Eilat, after the exodus from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. Station 12 refers to a dozen campsites in and around Timna in Modern Israel near Eilat. When King David conquered Edom, which up to then had been a common border of Edom and Midian, he took over Eilat, the border city shared by them as well. The commercial port city and copper based industrial center were maintained by Egypt until reportedly rebuilt by Solomon at a location known as Ezion-Geber (I Kings 9:26). In 2 Kings 14:22–22: "And all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept among his fathers." And again in 2 Kings 16:6: "At that time Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath to Aram, and drove the Jews from Elath; and the Edomites came to Elath, and dwelt there, unto this day".
During the Roman period a road was built to link the area with the Nabataean city of Petra (modern-day Jordan). The remains of a large copper smelting and trading community which flourished during the Umayyad Period (700–900 CE) were also found between what is now Eilat's industrial zone and nearby Kibbutz Eilot. The Darb el Hajj or "Pilgrim's Road", from Africa through Egypt to Mecca, passed out of Sinai from the west at Umm Al-Rashrash, Arabic name for Eilat, before skirting the sea and continuing south into Arabia. A British police post was established in this area in 1906.
The area was designated as part of the Jewish state in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The Arab village of Umm Al-Rashrash was taken without a fight on March 10, 1949, as part of Operation Uvda.
The Timna Copper Mines near Timna valley were opened, a port was constructed, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline laid, and tourism began. Construction of the city and the Port of Eilat began shortly after the end of the war. The port became vital to the fledgling country's development. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War Arab countries maintained a state of hostility with Israel, blocking all land routes; Israel's access to and trade with the rest of the world was by air and sea alone. Further, Egypt denied passage through the Suez Canal to Israeli-registered ships or to any ship carrying cargo to or from Israeli ports. This made Eilat and its sea port crucial to Israel's communications, commerce and trade with Africa and Asia, and for oil imports. Without recourse to a port on the Red Sea Israel would have been unable to develop its diplomatic, cultural and trade ties beyond the Mediterranean basin and Europe. This happened in 1956 and again in 1967, when Egypt's closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping effectively blockaded the port of Eilat. In 1956, this led to Israel's participation alongside Britain and France in the war against Egypt sparked by the Suez Crisis, while in 1967 it was cited by Israel as an additional casus belli leading to the outbreak of the Six-Day War. Following peace treaties signed with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, Eilat's borders with its neighbors were finally opened.
In July 2012, Israel signed an agreement with China to cooperate in building the High-speed railway to Eilat, a railway line which will serve both passenger and freight trains. It will link Eilat with Beersheba and Tel Aviv, and will run through the Arava Valley and Nahal Zin.
Currently, there are plans to vacate and dismantle Eilat Airport due to the plans for Timna Airport, and develop the area. Hotels and apartment buildings, containing a total of 2,080 hotel rooms and 1,000 apartments will be constructed on the site, as well as 275 dunams of public space and pedestrian paths. The plans also set aside space for the railway line and an underground railway station. The plan's goal is to create an urban continuum between the city center and North Beach, as well as tighten the links between the city's neighborhoods, which are currently separated by the airport.
In addition, there are plans to move the Port of Eilat and the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline terminal to the northern part of the city, as well as to turn it into a university town of science and research, and brand it an international sports city. All these projects are part of a plan to turn Eilat into a city of 150,000 people and 35,000 hotel rooms.
Eilat has a Desert climate with hot, dry summers and warm and almost rainless winters (BWh in Köppen climate classification). Winters are usually between 11 °C (52 °F) to 23 °C (73 °F). Summers are usually between 26 °C (79 °F) to 40 °C (100 °F). There are relatively small coral reefs near Eilat; however, 50 years ago they were much larger: the corals have been dying as a result of water pollution.
|Climate data for Eilat|
|Record high °C (°F)||30.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||20.8|
|Average low °C (°F)||9.6|
|Record low °C (°F)||2.2|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||3.5|
|Avg. precipitation days||2.1||1.8||1.6||0.9||0.7||0||0||0||0.1||0.7||0.8||1.9||10.6|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||229.4||237.3||251.1||273.0||319.3||324.0||347.2||347.2||291.0||282.1||246.0||217.0||3,364.6|
|Source #1: Israel Meteorological Service|
|Source #2: climatemps.com|
In 2007, over 200 Sudanese refugees from Egypt who arrived in Israel illegally on foot were given work and allowed to stay in Eilat. Eilat's population includes a large number of foreign workers, estimated at over 10,000 working as caregivers, hotel workers and in the construction trades.
The educational system of Eilat accommodates more than 9,000 youngsters in eight day-care centers, 67 pre-kindergartens and kindergartens, 10 elementary schools, and four high schools. Ben Gurion University of the Negev maintains a campus in Eilat. The Eilat branch has 1,100 students, about 75 percent from outside the city. In 2010, a new student dormitory was funded and built by the Jewish Federation of Toronto, the Rashi Foundation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the municipality of Eilat. The Eilat Field School on the outskirts of Eilat offers special hiking tours that focus on desert ecology, the Red Sea, bird migration and other aspects of Eilat's flora and fauna.
Yoseftal Medical Center, established in 1968, is Israel’s southernmost hospital, and the only hospital covering the southern Negev. With 65 beds, the hospital is Israel's smallest. Special services geared to the Red Sea region are a hyperbaric chamber to treat victims of diving accidents and kidney dialysis facilities open to vacationing tourists.
Eilat is connected to the rest of Israel and internationally by air, road and sea.
Eilat has two main roads connecting it with the center of Israel.
In the 1970s tourism became increasingly important to the city's economy as other industries shut down or were drastically reduced. Today tourism is the city's major source of income, although Eilat became a free trade zone in 1985.
Eilat offers a wide range of accommodations, from hostels and luxury hotels to Bedouin hospitality. In recent years Eilat has been the target of millitants from Egypt and Gaza causing a reduced tourist inflow to the region. Attractions include:
Skin and Scuba diving, with equipment for hire on or near all major beaches. Scuba diving equipment rental and compressed air are available from diving clubs and schools all year round. Eilat is located in the Gulf of Aqaba, one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. The coral reefs along Eilat's coast remain relatively pristine and the area is recognized as one of the prime diving locations in the world. About 250,000 dives are performed annually in Eilat's 11 km (6.84 mi) coastline, and diving represents 10% of the tourism income of this area. In addition, given the proximity of many of these reefs to the shore, non-divers can encounter the Red Sea's reefs with relative ease. Water conditions for SCUBA divers are good all year round, with water temperatures around 21–25 C°, with little or no currents and clear waters with an average of 20–30 meters visibility.
Despite harsh conditions, the region has supported large populations as far back as 8,000 BCE. Exploration of ancient sites began in 1861, but only 7% of the area has undergone serious archaeological excavation. Some 1,500 ancient sites are located in a 1,200-square-kilometre (460 sq mi) area. In contrast to the gaps found in settlement periods in the neighbouring Negev Highlands and Sinai, these sites show continuous settlement for the past 10,000 years.
In 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a bakery, in the Eilat bakery bombing, which killed three civilian employees.  This was the first suicide bombing to take place in Eilat, although other terror attacks have been carried out.
In 2011, terrorists infiltrated Israel across the Sinai border, attacking an Israeli civilian bus and an Israeli civilian car on Highway 12, a few miles from Eilat. The attack became known as the 2011 southern Israel cross-border attacks. In order to prevent terrorist infiltration of Israel from the Sinai, Israel is building the Israel-Egypt barrier a steel barrier backed by cameras, radar and motion detectors at the country's southern border. The fence, due to be completed by the end of 2012; has becoming increasingly important due to tensions following the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Eilat neighborhoods are Arava, Ganim A, Ganim B, Hadekel, Ha'eshel, Mizpe Ya,m Maar'av Sheva, Midbar, Ophir, Shahamon, Tse'elim, Urim, Ye'elim, Zofit Elite, Zofit and Tachtit.
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