More Israeli tourists discover Albania as direct flights link Tirana to Tel Aviv

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 12, 2018 17:03

More Israeli tourists discover Albania as direct flights link Tirana to Tel Aviv

Story Highlights

  • Israeli interest to visit Albania is also triggered by the fact that Albania, a country with a majority Muslim population, was unique in Europe during World War II as the only country which had more Jews after the war than it did beforehand

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TIRANA, July 12 – More and more Israeli tourists are visiting Albania, a Balkan country which Israel recognizes as unique in Europe for its efforts to save Jews during World War II, following the recent launch of direct Tel Aviv – Tirana flights during Albania’s peak tourist season.

About 200 Israeli tourists landed in Tirana in late June flying Israir Airlines, which the Tirana International Airport says will offer direct links twice a week until the end of September and strengthen relations between Albania and Israel, especially in economy.

Another carrier, Albanian-owned Albawings is also offering Tirana-Tel Aviv flights throughout summer when Albania is packed by tourists discovering the decades-long isolated country under communism which is emerging as an off-the radar destination and has been named ‘Europe’s last secret.’

Israeli interest to visit Albania is also triggered by the fact that Albania, a country with a majority Muslim population, was unique in Europe during World War II as the only country which had more Jews after the war than it did beforehand. BESA, a code of honour stressing religious tolerance and hospitality is considered to be the reason that Jews were safe there.

Norman Gershman’s “Besa: A Code of Honor,” a photo exhibition featuring the accounts of Muslim Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, has been touring around the world for a decade now.

“A holiday in Albania for Israeli tourists is a relatively cheap and that includes food, shopping and entertainment. If you decide to get out of Tirana, you will find beautiful landscapes such as beaches, mountains, hills, streams and lakes,” Israel’s Walla news agency writes about Albania.

Describing Albania as the country of Skanderbeg, the 15th century national hero who ousted the Ottomans for about a quarter of century, and the homeland of Mother Teresa, the renowned nun of Albanian origin who has been declared a Saint, the Israeli agency says Albanians are very proud of their history.

“Albanians are very proud of their history and being successors to the Illyrians is an honor and a fact that distinguishes them from citizens of other countries they are surrounded by. Recent history is something they take less pride in and forty years of isolation under the Hoxha regime has left its traces with hundreds of thousands of bunkers built in the country because of the late dictator’s paranoia of being occupied,” the article says.

Albania is described in the article as a majority Muslim country but with a quite Western lifestyle in dressing and its restaurants serving good pork and wine.

The Israeli agency says travel and tourism prices in Albania are much cheaper compared to Greece or Croatia and cold beer is even quite less expensive than in Tel Aviv.

Football games have also brought the two countries closer in the past couple of years, although a late 2016 Albania-Israel qualifier was marred by a planned terrorist attack successfully foiled by the authorities.

The Albania and Israeli national football sides faced each other in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and each claimed 3-0 away wins. The two national sides have been drawn together again and will face each other this year in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, a tournament that largely replaces friendlies but which will also play a major part in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by deciding the final four places via play-offs.

Albania will host Israel September 7 before a second-leg away encounter on October 14, 2018.

The organized Israeli tourists come at a time when Albania is facing a sharp increase in charter flights, mostly bringing Nordic tourists who are massively visiting Albania, having booked up the best hotels along the Adriatic coast of Durres for most of the season.

Ukrainian and Russian-speaking tourists are also visiting Albania in quite larger numbers this year at a time when tourism in Albania continues to be dominated by the so-called ‘patriotic’ segment bringing ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia as well as migrants living and working abroad, mainly in Italy and Greece.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 12, 2018 17:03