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Ramon Airport: Israel’s white elephant in the desert

It’s been seven months since the festive inauguration of the Ramon Airport, which despite its hefty price tag, has failed to meet anyone's expectations.
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Last June, I set out to visit one of the settlements in the southern Arava region. At first, I thought I would drive, but then I found a cheap flight from Ben Gurion International Airport to the new Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport, named after the Israeli astronaut and his pilot son, respectively. I had never been to Ramon, opened in January some 12 miles north of Eilat, and I could never have imagined what I found when I stepped off the plane there: a barren wilderness, screaming to the heavens, and vast aircraft stands devoid of planes. The desert silence only intensified the sense of strangeness.

When I got to the baggage carousel, the feeling that this was all a farce grew even stronger. The airport — built over five and a half years at a cost of 1.8 billion shekels (half a billion dollars) — was for all intents and purposes empty. A custodian wandering the halls with his cleaning equipment was the loudest thing there.

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