Sitting at the bottom of the Negev Desert, Eilat is Israel’s access route to the Indian Ocean and her southernmost city. Sandwiched between Taba in Egypt and Aqaba in Jordan, Eilat has become a major holiday destination for both Israelis and foreign tourists due to its year round good weather and its tax free status.
The city of Eilat has approximately 48,000 residents who support an enormous tourism infrastructure. Folks are drawn to the city due to the hot desert climate and the warm temperature of the Red Sea on which she sits. Attractions in the city include snorkeling around the small coral reefs that can still be seen in the area of the Coral Beach Nature Reserve, the Underwater Observatory, and Dolphin Reef where you can swim with the Dolphins. On land there are a number of attractions including the IMAX Cinema and the Kings City Theme Park, but many visitors prefer to just enjoy the beach, boardwalk and restaurants.
The area in and around Eilat has been settled since antiquity, with copper mining being a huge industry throughout the ancient times and into the middle ages. In more recent times, a British Police HQ was established in the place of where the modern city would later grow; this happened in 1906 – interestingly Palestine was under Ottoman rule at the time.
In 1949, there was an Arab village called Um Rash Rash, but the entire of the Negev Desert including Um Rash-Rash had been slated to be part of the Jewish State according to the 1947 UN Partition Plan. However at the end of the War of Independence it seemed that Jordan was going to claim control of it. This would have left Israel with no trade access to the Indian Ocean. In the last operation of the War of Independence several IDF Brigades advanced through the Negev in order to capture Um Rush-Rush and secure the Negev Desert and the Red Sea port for the State of Israel.
Ariel photos revealed that the defensive positions of the city had been abandoned and the Negev Brigade went on to conquer the town with no opposition. They did not have a flag with them and so they famously improvised by drawing an ink flag which they raised above the abandoned police HQ; this is a famous photograph and the only one from the conquest.
There are many fine restaurants in the city. Particularly recommended is the Last Refuge; its a little way out of town but worth the cab ride.