Israel / Cities and Towns
Other spellings: Elat, Elath, Eloth
Town in southern Israel with 47,000 inhabitants (2008 estimate), on the Gulf of Aqaba, connected to the Red Sea.
Eilat's economy is linked both to activities of the port and tourism. Exports over the port are largely minerals from the Dead Sea, imports are metal, sugar, electronic equipment and automobiles. Much of this is facilitated by the free trade zone established here in 1985. Tourism benefits from year long season, clear waters with corals and a rich marine life. An oil line from Egypt to Ashkelon passes through Eilat, but is of moderate importance to the local economy.
Eilat is relatively isolated from the rest of Israel, but highways have been improved in recent years, and there are regular air services, both domestic (Jerusalem) and international. The border between Israel and Jordan is open, connecting Eilat to Aqaba 6 km southeast.
Modern Eilat is an open well-designed town, with shopping areas and a number of luxury hotels. The main attractions are with the coral reefs, like the Coral World Underwater Observatory which is built into a coral reef, the Coral Reserve, an offshore nature park and the Dolphin Reef, which has exactly the attractions which the name indicates.
Early 1st millennium BCE: Eilat is mentioned in the Bible several times. Still, the settlement of ancient Eloth, corresponds to territory across the border, on the Jordanian side. King Solomon establishes a port named Eziot Geber here.
4th century: Is a border stronghold of the Nabateans.
7th century: Jews flee to Eilat to escape persecution from Muslim Arabs conquering Palestine.
1116: Conquered by Christian Crusaders.
1167: Reconquered by the Muslims under the command of Saladin.
1588: The Ottomans builds a fort far to the east of Eilat, making the port irrelevant and abandoned.
1922: Becomes part of the British mandate over Palestine.
1948: According to the UN Partition Plan, the point of Umm Rashrash, the abandoned frontier outpost at the Gulf of Aqaba and the place of future Eilat is rewarded to the forthcoming Jewish state. During the First Palestinian War, the Egyptians takes control over Umm Rashrash.
1949 March 10: As the last Israeli operation of the First Palestinian War, Israeli forces cross 240 km of desert from Beer Sheva to Umm Rashrash. Eilat is founded.
1951: A port is established at Eilat.
1956: The port of Eilat is enlarged following the Suez-Sinai War, when Egyptian control over the Strait of Tiran (entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba) is broken.
1959: Eilat is incorporated into Israel.
1967: Following the Six-Day War, the Suez Canal is closed, and Eilat start serving the needs of international shipping, bringing strong growth to the town. This would last until 1975, when Egypt reopened the Suez Canal.
1985: A tax-free zone is declared at Eilat.