From The Christian Science Monitor, Security Watch - A rocket blast near Israel's main international airport triggered major flight cancelations today for the first time in more than two decades. While the recent destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 probably has airlines and regulators more nervous than usual, rocket fire from Gaza now poses more of a threat to Israeli civil aviation than ever before.
Why is Ben Gurion so important to Israel?
Imagine if the United States had only one airport and that driving in and out of the country wasn't really an option. That should give you an idea of how important Ben Gurion Airport is to both Israel's economy and its sense of national well-being. The airport is named for David Ben-Gurion, a Pole who emigrated to Ottoman Palestine in the early 20th Century and devoted his life to the Zionist ideal. In 1948 he proclaimed the country's independence and became its first prime minister.
And for the vast majority of Israelis Ben Gurion has been the national gateway for generations. About 30 percent of Jewish Israelis are immigrants from other countries and many others continue to have extended family abroad, particularly in the US and Europe. Overseas travel is common for both business and pleasure, and the airport is seen as crucial link to the rest of the world. Last year, about 14 million passengers passed through the airport in a country with a population that's about 8 million. Moreover, foreign tourists and businessmen rely on the airport as well, and extended closures or fears about Ben Gurion could easily see investment diverted elsewhere. more