(JNS) The Israeli airline Arkia announced that it will launch direct flights from Israel to Sri Lanka beginning on Oct. 31.
Waruna Wilpatha, a former Sri Lankan ambassador to Israel, told JNS that he is pleased a project he initiated is appearing to come to fruition.
“Without direct air connectivity, it was next to impossible to promote tourism and increase trade between our countries,” Wilpatha told JNS.
The diplomat said that he had worked tirelessly to get direct flights between Israel and Sri Lanka off the ground during the pandemic in 2020, and he was hoping to have them in place by October 2022, during peak tourist season.
“Sri Lanka has had Jewish traders and a community long ago,” Wilpatha told JNS.
Lonely Planet named the island country, just off the Indian coast, a top place to visit in 2019. Sri Lanka’s beaches have attracted Israeli surfers. And it is known for tropical rainforests and wildlife, such as elephants and leopards in national parks, as well as for ancient cultural heritage sites, many influenced by Buddhist architecture.
There is a Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka, but many Christian tourists come for religious pilgrimages—mainly around Christmas time.
Wilpatha, who was the Sri Lankan diplomat in Israel from 2019 until last February, told JNS that about 6,000 Sri Lankans live in Israel, mostly working as caregivers for the elderly.
“Our people are very compassionate and caring. That is why they are good at assisting old people,” he said.
Reportedly, direct flights will depart from Israel on Tuesdays, and flights from Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, Sri Lanka, will depart for Tel Aviv on Wednesdays.
“I hope in the future, there will be more Israeli tourists in Sri Lanka taking advantage of the direct flights,” Wilpatha said.