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Syrian Civil War Reopens Trade Route Through Israeli Port

The port city of Haifa, once a major gateway to the Near East, is regaining some of its lost commercial importance thanks to the Syrian war.
Cranes are seen at the port of the northern city of Haifa April 23, 2013. Israel is betting its economic future on high-tech exports but faces a low-tech bottleneck in state-owned seaports subject to work stoppages and slowdowns because of the enormous strength of their unions. All that may be about to change. The government, for years unwilling to risk a confrontation that could paralyse trade given that 99 percent of exports and imports are transported by ship, last month pledged to end the monopolies of

HAIFA, Israel — Under Ottoman and British rule, the port city of Haifa, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Carmel, was a major gateway to the Near East, a multiethnic entrepôt where merchants met and goods flowed to and from Damascus, Baghdad and beyond. The creation of Israel in 1948 and the consequent conflict with the Arab world, however, severed Haifa from much of its economic hinterland. Today another war is helping it regain some of its lost commercial importance and perhaps in the process changing the geopolitical calculus of the region.

On May 27, a convoy of 30 trucks carrying fresh fruits and vegetables from the Turkish city of Iskenderun rolled off the 7,084-ton Kibris Yildiz anchored in Haifa and formed a line on one of the docks. The Turkish drivers lazed about in the sun for hours, chatting, smoking and occasionally facing Mecca to pray while waiting for the signal to move. When word finally came, the men jumped in their 12-wheelers and drove, in groups of 10, some 50 miles through the fertile Jezreel Valley to the border with Jordan, their final destination. The convoys were part of a new trade route that opened seven months ago to circumvent the war in nearby Syria.

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