A large number of Israelis are seeking refuge in Greece and Cyprus as the war against Hamas in Gaza escalates.
According to reports many are seeking apartments available from short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, which are readily available in Athens and Thessaloniki, where a large Jewish community resides.
Speaking to Greek Reporter Spilios Papaspiliou, executive manager of gembnb.com, confirmed that there has been a spike in bookings from Israel.
“When the war started there were cancellations from Israel. However, in the last two weeks, there has been a substantial increase.”
Papaspiliou, whose company runs around 70 properties for short-term lending in the wider Athens area, said that the volume of inquiries from Israel came as a surprise.
“They are mainly bookings of the last moment. Many ask to arrive the next day. Several are inquiring about other properties for their friends and family…The most in-demand areas are in the center of Athens and the southern suburbs.”
Other professionals in the field also confirmed the trend concerning Israeli visitors.
“After the flare-up in the Middle East, several Israelis rushed to seek safe haven in countries they consider friendly and not in danger of being the target of missile attacks”, notes home owners association (PASYDA) president Andreas Chiou to Greek publication Oikonomikos Taxydromos (OT).
Giorgos Kanellopoulos, a member of the Board of Directors of STAMA (an association of short-term rental companies) said that although Israelis cancelled their holidays in Greece there is an increased demand for Airbnb-style properties.
“We have had cancellations from Israelis who had long booked some of our properties for their holidays and apparently as they are in the midst of war they cannot come. On the other hand, at the same time, there is an increased demand for Airbnb-style properties from people looking for refuge in Athens, away from the war.”
Greece, and Cyprus, are regarded as “safe havens” for the Israelis. It is no coincidence that in recent years more and more Israelis have chosen Greece for their holidays.
The Israelis had even climbed into the top 5 of the top customers for the domestic tourism industry, along with the Americans.
In 2022 a historical record of arrivals from Israel to Greece was recorded, reaching 722,549 visitors. In Thessaloniki, 11% of overnight stays were from Israelis.
Greece is a well-known and friendly country for many Israelis who, this time, are not coming to experience the Greek summer but are forced to leave their country because of the war.
Israelis look at Greece’s “Golden Visa” program
There is also great interest in buying a home through the “Golden Visa” program, OT reports.
Real estate agencies in various cities of the country receive forays from Israelis who want to buy real estate in Greece worth more than 250,000 euros, in order to have the right to permanent residence and free movement in Europe.
Thessaloniki, due to its historical ties with the Jewish community, is a preferable destination, however strong demand also exists for Athens, with an emphasis on the southern suburbs but also areas outside the urban fabric.
OT says that a real estate agent last week closed a deal for two villas in the Saronida area for over six months, in the hope that by then a rudimentary calm will have been restored.
Israelis flock to Cyprus
Cyprus, due to its proximity, is the first preference for Israeli citizens fleeing abroad.
Larnaca, hosting Cyprus’s biggest airport, has seen a swell of expatriate Israelis, including reservists, using it as a transit point to get on the next available flight to Tel Aviv. It has also seen an influx from Israel of people who lost their homes, Chief Rabbi Arie Zeev Raskin said.
“Everyone opened their doors, including many many Cypriots,” Raskin told Reuters.
Raskin, who has been in Cyprus for more than 20 years, said there were about 2,500 Israelis in the Larnaca area at present, including traumatised children.