Israeli Cabinet Okays $143M Plan To Develop Eilat’s Health, Transport, Tourism And Food Tech Sectors
The Israeli cabinet approved a multi-pronged development plan on Sunday that would pour resources worth some NIS 500 million ($143 million) into Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat, on the Red Sea and the surrounding Hevel Eilot Regional Council by 2023.
The plan includes upgraded health services, improved transportation infrastructure, increased tourism, an overhaul of the coastal strip, and sea-focused food tech initiatives including in marine biotechnology and aquaculture.
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Speaking at the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Eilat could become “a center of knowledge and sea-based food technology,” specifically sea-sourced proteins.
Netanyahu also said he would establish a ministerial committee to look into allowing entry to additional international flight operators looking to add Eilat to their destination list.
Earlier this year, Israel inaugurated the Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport near Eilat, the first civilian international airport built in Israel since the founding of the state, in an effort to boost tourism to the city by attracting low-cost and charter flights from Europe. The airport is named after Israel’s first astronaut killed in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003, and his F-16 pilot son who died in a training accident in 2009.
Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday that the ministerial team will also move forward on the planning for a railway line from the center of the country to Eilat.
The approval of the plan, and specifically its health upgrade portion, comes on the heels of the closure of the Sde Dov airport in central Tel Aviv last month. The airport, which sits on prime real estate, mainly handled a limited schedule of domestic flights to Eilat and northern Israel.
The closure has exacerbated the shortage of doctors, specialists and health professionals in Eilat, who had previously used Sde Dov to fly more conveniently between the city and central Israel, Globes reported on Sunday. Flying between Ramon Airport and Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv typically is typically a longer journey.
“Specialists currently lacking in Eilat include gynecologists, pediatricians, radiologists, child development doctors, psychiatrists, cardiologists, dermatologists, internal doctors, and intensive care doctors. As a result of the shortage, the length of lines for doctors and medical services in the city are liable to be double or more in comparison with the central region,” Globes wrote.
The business daily further reported that as part of the approved plan, doctors and other health professionals willing to relocate to Eilat could earn grants of up to NIS 1 million over five years. An additional NIS 13 million will be allocated to flying doctors to the city in partnership with Israel’s HMOs.
Currently, Eilat’s only hospital is the Yoseftal Medical Center, the smallest general hospital in the county. As part of the plan, the hospital’s infrastructure and resources will be upgraded including new operating rooms, a dialysis center, a gastroenterology center, a center for sexual assault victims, and a maternity ward.
Another key part of the plan is the upgrade of remote medical and health services, also known as telemedicine, to save on time and funds, according to the government.