After the Hamas assault on Israel on October 7, tens of thousands of Israelis were evacuated from towns around Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Gaza. At the onset of the war, the Israeli Tourism Ministry helped 125,000 displaced residents find temporary housing. Under the leadership of Tourism Minister Haim Katz, the ministry secured 50,000 hotel rooms for displaced residents and set up a daily subsistence allowance program.


The Tourism Ministry paid hotels 3.2 billion shekels ($850 million US dollars) and allocated 2 billion shekels for 100,000 displaced residents through Israel’s National Insurance Institute. 

More than six months since the outbreak of the war, approximately 7,000 evacuees are still living in hotels. Around 50,000 have returned home, having been given a special grant from the Tourism Ministry. 

The Media Line spoke to the Tourism Ministry and the hotels that hosted evacuees about the experience of housing evacuees, the war’s impact on the tourism industry, and the future of tourism in Israel. 

“Tourism stopped completely at the beginning of the war, as happened in every place in the world,” Tourism Ministry spokesperson Anat Shihor-Aronson told The Media Line. “From almost reaching the record of incoming tourism in 2023, as it was in 2019, to nothing-from 100 to 0.”

Shihor-Aronson said that the Tourism Ministry initially did not plan to participate in the evacuation efforts. But when it was announced that displaced residents would be housed in public buildings such as schools, Tourism Minister Haim Katz proposed an alternative solution.

Housing 90,000 evacuees amid war crisis

Members from Israel’s Tourism Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Justice Ministry, Police and other government and local leaders convened a forum to address the spike in anti-Christian attacks. (credit: TOURISM MINISTRY)

“He said, ‘No way,’” Shihor-Aronson recounted. “We at the Tourism Ministry know how to work with hotels and immediately connected with the Israel Hotel Association. We established a situation room in Tel Aviv in the hotel association building and brought tens of our employees and the people from the hotel association.”

The team succeeded in placing evacuees in 50,000 hotel rooms in just a few days.

About 90,000 evacuees were housed in hotel rooms at the beginning of the war, Shihor-Aronson said. As the war dragged on, many evacuees sought out other options for housing. 

“The conditions are not easy, even though the hotels provided their best facilities and went beyond their duty to accommodate the evacuees,” Shihor-Aronson said.

She added that the ministry provided displaced residents who preferred not to stay in hotels grants of 200 shekels ($53 US dollars) per adult and 100 shekels ($27 US dollars) per child daily for alternative housing.

“It gets to 18,000 shekels [$4,770 US dollars] a month for a family of two parents and two children and 21,000 [$5,570] for a family of three children, allowing them to rent an apartment by themselves and still have money to live,” Shihor-Aronson said. “Many evacuees chose this.”

The current governmental support for displaced residents is set to last until July 7. If the ministry’s services are still needed beyond that, they may be extended. 

“Who knows what’s going to happen? We hope the war will end, but if we need to continue our services, we are completely ready to do so,” Shihor-Aronson said.

Yossi Glazer, the southern district general manager of Fattal Hotels, Israel’s largest hotel chain, told The Media Line that the chain’s hotels housed over 20,000 people who were displaced from their homes. 

“These evacuees were welcomed at all of our 40 hotels across Israel, from north to south, and hosted with great love and compassion,” Glazer said. 

He said that about 90% of rooms in the hotels were used by evacuees. Most of those evacuees have returned home or moved to alternative residences by now, with many hotels no longer hosting any displaced residents. 

“We opened our doors to evacuees only,” Glazer said. “Some stayed for weeks, some for months. For now, the majority left, except for two hotels: one in Eilat and one in Tel Aviv.”

Although the period was highly challenging, the hotels were prepared for the crisis, Glazer said. 

“Our work is to know how to adjust to every guest’s needs,” he explained. “In wartime, we have the opportunity to become a home for people. Besides all the basic needs, the room and amenities, we know how to adjust the food and change our menu so people have a variety that can fit for six months.”

Glazer noted that the kindergartens, schools, and medical, dental, and mental health centers were opened at the hotels in order to meet the evacuees’ needs. 

He said that helping the evacuees was a pleasure and honor and said that the families appreciated the hotels’ efforts.

“They became our family, and we became theirs,” he said. “Our maids know the names of every dog in the hotel, every child, and every family. We celebrated weddings, bar mitzvahs, and birthdays. We have seen the births of more than 30 babies of Jewish families in our hotels.”

“Some evacuees were very traumatized, and still, our staff knew how to hug them, listen, and host with much love,” he continued, “And more than that, we have more than 300 team members, men and women, who were called up for military service during these difficult times.”

Koby Hatzoel, Fattal’s general manager for Tel Aviv and Herzliya, told The Media Line that the financial aspect of housing evacuees was not discussed at the beginning of the war. 

“We didn’t even think about the finances. We just wanted to help the people pass this difficult time,” he said. 

He said that the hotels began receiving financial compensation from the Tourism Ministry about one month after the war broke out. 

While the costs of rooms were covered, the hotels will need additional funds for repairs after the evacuees leave. 

“When people stay at the hotel so much time, with animals and with all their stuff, you need to renovate the rooms afterwards. We hope to get some support to do it,” Hatzoel said. 

Tourism Ministry spokesperson Shihor-Aronson expressed optimism about the future of tourism in Israel. 

“We are already preparing for the day after the war,” she said.

“We keep in touch with everybody,” she continued. “We organize events to make the world keep Israel in mind all the time. We support our marketing routes, and we also participate in almost every tourism fair all over the globe, and the interest in Israel is still there.”

Hatzoel expressed his gratitude for the domestic tourism still happening in the country. He noted that the chain’s hotels in Eilat, the Dead Sea, and Tel Aviv are fully booked. 

“People want to go back to their routine and go on vacation,” he said, predicting that the hotels will do well during the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and over the summer vacation. 

Glazer, who manages hotels in southern Israel, said that Israelis are interested in domestic tourism as a way to relax during a tense year. He said that demand is highest in resort areas and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The hotels have also begun hosting foreign visitors who are traveling on business or on solidarity visits, he said. 

With strong demand amid a complex reality, Israel’s hotel industry has proven its resilience.

“Tourism is no longer a luxury,” Glazer said. “It’s a basic need. We all know that Israel had some other crises in the past. We hope that we will return to normal levels of tourism, even in the third quarter of this year.”


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