Due to Syria unrest, European exporters rely on Israel for route to Arab customers
The hydraulic ramp of a Turkish freighter taps down on the eastern Mediterranean port of Haifa and, under a full moon, 37 trucks roll off onto an otherwise empty pier.
In a convoy that stretches hundreds of meters, the trucks travel east across northern Israel, bringing goods from Europe to customers in Jordan and beyond.
Until three years ago the cargo these trucks carry – fruits, cheese, raw material for the textile industry, spare parts, and second-hand trucks – would have come through Syria. But civil war has made that journey too perilous.
“Too much problems, too much guns, too much fighting,” said Ismail Hamad, a 58-year-old Romanian driver. Hamad has driven through Syria for three decades, he said; now, only Israel.
Three years after Syria plunged into violence, Israel is reaping an unlikely economic benefit. The number of trucks crossing between Israel and Jordan has jumped some 300 percent since 2011, to 10,589 trucks a year, according to the Israel Airports Authority. In particular, exports from Turkey – food, steel, machinery and medicine – have begun to flow through Israel and across the Sheikh Hussein Bridge to Jordan and a few Arab neighbors. Turkey’s Directorate General of Merchant Marine, part of that country’s transport ministry, said that transit containers shipped to Israel for passage on to other countries increased to 77,337 tonnes in 2013 from 17,882 tonnes in 2010