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Israeli-American 'spy' released by Egypt

Prisoner swap may ease tensions between Israel and Egypt. Egypt's tourism industry certainly hopes so.

“We don’t advise Israelis to come to Basata. We have a lot of Egyptians and Arabs come here,” el-Ghamrawy said. “When you have Israelis here, you can never avoid political discussions. It would make a very, very stressed atmosphere.”

Comments like that, according to many Bedouins here, only serve to scare Israelis off from coming to the Sinai.

Just a few hundred feet down the beach from Basata, Hany Gelbanah has proudly placed a black Star of David wrought into an iron menorah in a center spot on the lone reception desk greeting visitors to his hotel.

The menorah was a gift, said Gelbanah, a faithful Muslim, from an Israeli tourist who used to spend Hanukkah holidays at his camp. It sits near a faded, hand-painted sign on the kitchen wall that simply reads, “Welcome.”

Of course, very few people pass through to see Gelbanah’s menorah these days. But he’s hoping that will change soon.

“Israelis should feel welcome to come to the Sinai. Unless we start talking, both sides will hate each other forever,” he said. “Our countries need to be talking.”