Hotels await payment for hosting evacuees 2 weeks into war with Hamas


More than two weeks into the war in Israel’s South, tens of thousands of evacuees have sought shelter in hotels across the country, yet the hotels have not received payment for housing these displaced individuals. One hotel owner warned, “If we don’t receive payment promptly, we may have to ask the evacuees to leave, as we are on the brink of bankruptcy.”

The Maccabiah Village Hotel in Ramat Gan has welcomed the first evacuees from the conflict zone. Currently, it accommodates about 700 evacuees from the Gaza border area, providing full board, similar to other state-funded hotels. This comes at a daily cost of approximately $70,000.

Additionally, a school with 15 teachers has been established within the hotel, entirely funded by the hotel and with the assistance of volunteers. However, as of now, no payment has been received from the state.

Even the hotel in Shefayim, which is housing survivors from the conflict, has not received any payment.

How is the evacuation of refugees from the South being funded?

The evacuation of residents is coordinated between the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for those evacuated from within 0-5 kilometers of the border, as well as those leaving temporarily from more distant towns. The Interior Ministry is awaiting a budget allocation from the Finance Ministry to cover the hotel costs.

Survivors of Hamas attack on southern Israel, embrace after being evacuated to a hotel in Ein Bokek, Israel October 11, 2023. (credit: REUTERS)

On October 25, the entire system will transition to the Tourism Ministry, which will manage new evacuations, extensions, and payments to hotels. Under the new arrangement, hotels will receive a 25% advance upon signing the contract.

Each day, more evacuees are added to the list managed by the Tourism Ministry, following a report in Walla. It was revealed that the Interior Ministry had referred evacuees to the tourism company “Guide 21” without a competitive tender, incurring a commission of 5-8%, plus an additional NIS 50 per evacuee. This arrangement has cost the state several tens of millions of shekels.

Tourism Minister Haim Katz has taken measures to reduce costs. He lowered the daily hotel rates from NIS 500 to NIS 480 and expanded the “children” category to include 12-18-year-olds, effectively halving the daily cost. The Tourism Ministry has emphasized that there is currently no shortage of hotel rooms and they are continuously assessing the situation and updating their lists received from local authorities to accommodate new arrivals and private evacuations. They encourage hoteliers with available rooms to contact the ministry and contribute to the national effort.

Additionally, it has been learned that the daily rate for evacuees not staying in state-funded hotels, which was initially NIS 100 per child and NIS 150 per adult, has now been adjusted to NIS 200 per adult while the rate for children remains at NIS 100 per day.

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