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Thursday, July 21, 2011     GET REAL

For Israelis vacationing in the Sinai, terrorism 'ranked third' on list of concerns

TEL AVIV — Israeli tourists have been unmoved by repeated government warnings not to visit neighboring Egypt, a study said.


The study by Israel's Ben-Gurion University asserted that Israeli tourists to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have been ignoring government warnings of impending attacks. The study said the Israelis ranked terrorism third on their list of concerns when vacationing in the peninsula.

"First and foremost, Israeli tourists were concerned about their relations with their hosts," the study said. "Their primary fear was a hostile reception on the part of their local hosts — Egyptians and Bedouins."

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Thousands of Israelis have been vacationing in Sinai amid repeated government warnings of an insurgency strike. At least three major Al Qaida-aligned attacks took place in Sinai since 2003.

[On July 20, the Israeli government issued an updated travel warning that reported an easing of threats throughout the world, Middle East Newsline reported. The warning by the prime minister's office also canceled an alert issued in April of an imminent attack in Sinai.]

Researchers questioned Israelis as they crossed into Sinai amid warnings by the government's Counter-Terrorism Bureau. Based on 489 interviews, the report said Israelis were first concerned over the reliability of their Sinai hosts as well as sanitary conditions.

"The risk of terrorism only ranked third on their list of concerns," the study, conducted by Natan Uriely, Arie Reichel and Galia Fuchs, said. "The risk included a fear of the ineffectiveness of the local security forces in dealing with such a threat."

Other Israeli concerns included overcrowding at vacation sites in the Sinai. The tourists also cited the popular use of recreational drugs by tourists.

Most of the tourists were said to have dismissed the Israeli government's warnings against travel to Sinai. Those interviewed asserted that the prospect of an attack increases only during Jewish holidays, when the Israeli tourist season peaked.

"Respondents argued that the chances of an act of terrorism increases during Jewish religious festivals," the study said, "that their hosts who they knew would take good care of them and protect them, that the chances of anything happening decreases closer to the border with Israel, that it is safer not to stay at hotels, that the presence of police forces serves as a deterrent, that terrorism does not strike twice in the same place, that the media enhances the sense of danger in the Sinai, and that the chances of a terrorist attack in Israel were greater than in Sinai."

The researchers said Israelis who defined their political views as "right-wing" or "centrist" were more concerned over their safety in Sinai. The researchers said the link between political views and fear of terrorism should be explored.

"Another interesting and unique finding was the importance tourists traveling to Sinai attributed to the concerns raised by relatives, which has never been investigated before in research on the perceptions of the risks of terrorism," the study, released in May 2011, said. "Despite all the self-justifications used by the tourists about the dangers of terrorism, they were actually concerned about their relatives back home worrying about them."

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