Christians in Rwanda have welcomed the news of planned direct flights to Israel by the national carrier RwandAir, a move they say will ease their visits to the Holy Land.
On Tuesday, the national carrier announced that it would commence direct flights to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv next month, on June 25, making it their 29th destination altogether, and their second route in the Middle East.
The airline will be operating three flights to Tel Aviv a week from Kigali, and Christians in Rwanda are excited about the development.
Israel is known to be a top destination for Christians from all over the world.
It is home to the City of Jerusalem, a place of special importance to Christians, as it boasts historic sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mountain.
Israel is also home to other landmarks for Christianity like Nazareth, where Jesus Christ is believed to have grown up from, Nablus where Joseph’s Tomb is found, Bethlehem the birthplace of Jesus and place of Rachel’s Tomb, as well as Hebron, where the Cave of the Patriarchs is, among others.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Pastor Desire habyarimana, head of agakiza.org, a Christian ministry that sometimes facilitates travels to Israel, said that the new RwandAir route will ease their travel in form of saving time.
Rwandan pilgrims to Israel mainly used to transit through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Istanbul, Turkey, before they could arrive in Israel, which was both time consuming and expensive.
“Now things will be faster,” he said.
Janet Uwimbabazi, who works with Love Israel Ministries, another organisation that facilitates Christians to travel to Israel, said that a return ticket to Israel used to cost between US$700 to US$900 with Ethiopian Airlines, but she believes that price will go low since the new route is direct.
Her company takes up to 35 people a year to Israel and said the number will go up with a more affordable ticket.
A source at RwandAir told this publication yesterday that a return ticket to Tel Aviv will go for US$615 in economy class.
“It was expensive and it is one of the reasons that few people used to go. In fact, it took a lot of time to prepare because people had to use a lot of time to mobilise the money to fund their trip,” she said.
“The other thing, we will be proud to go with our national carrier,” she added.
Darlene kiyange, a Christian that traveled to Israel, the new route will save them the tire associated with stopovers.
“We used to spend a night at the airport in Istanbul, as we waited for the plane that would take us to Israel. This direct flight will both save our time, and also we will not tire a lot,” she said.
Kigali-Tel Aviv route will be operated on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays by a Boeing 737-800NG, with 16 seats in business class and 138 seats in economy class, according to the carrier.
Officials said that the development will help strengthen ties between the two friendly nations as well as boost business.
Announcing the new route, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, RwandAir’s chief executive, said that adding Tel Aviv to their network is part of the carrier’s long-term plan to link Rwanda to the rest of the world.
“Tel Aviv is one of the world’s leading tech hubs and we look forward to flying business travelers as well as pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, to and from our network on this new route,” she said in a statement.
It will also be a great opportunity to ease travel and strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries, she added.
The route is further expected to connect regional travelers to the Middle Eastern country.
RwandAir has in recent years been expanding to new destinations.
In April, the airline launched flights to DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.