Christian tourists to the Holy Land are expected to reach some 2 million in 2013, a record and sharply higher than the 1.18 million recorded in 2012, the Israeli Tourism Ministry said on Monday.

At end-October, according to Tourism Ministry statistics from Rachel’s Crossing, 1.85 million tourists had passed through the crossing to visit Bethlehem.

A total 75,000 tourists are expected to be in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem over Christmas, with 25,000 being considered Christian pilgrims.

The Ministry said, over the past two years, Israel has invested NIS 86 million ($24 million) in strengthening the transport infrastructure and other assets used by Christians “>to tour Israel’s religious sites.

“The Tourism Ministry under my leadership will continue to invest significantly in the preservation and renovation of Christian holy sites,” Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau said in a statement. “Since its establishment, the State of Israel has attached great importance to the values of freedom of religion and worship and works tirelessly to facilitate religious practice for people of all religions in freedom and mutual respect. We will do all we can to ensure that every Christian can visit the holy sites. We  invite the faithful to visit the Holy Land and experience a powerful religious and spiritual pilgrimage in Jerusalem, the Galilee and beyond.”

The sites that have been improved because of Israeli investment include, among others, “>the baptism site at Qasr el Yahud near the Dead Sea, “>Mount Zion and“> Ein Karem in Jerusalem and “>the Gospel Trail in the “>Galilee. Other projects include, the boardwalk from “>Tiberias to “>Capernaum, “>Korazim and Mount Precipice. Future infrastructure projects at Christian sites include, among others, “>Tel Megiddo , the “>Old City of Jerusalem, “>Sussita and other sites in the Tiberias and Galilee region.

Representatives in the Tourism Ministry are anticipating continued collaboration with the Catholic Church for the visit of Pope Francis, who is expected to tour the Holy Land in the first half of 2014. The Tourism Ministry invested over  NIS 3.5 million in infrastructure and marketing the recent International Day of Faith celebrations held at Mount Precipice in Nazareth, in November, led by the Latin Patriarch and attended by about 7,000 Catholic faithful from the region and overseas.

Targeted marketing campaigns take place around the world to Christian communities, encouraging tourism to the Holy Land. The ministry runs dedicated websites and Facebook pages for the Catholic and Evangelical communities.

During 2012, Israel’s record year for incoming tourism, 2.88 million tourists visited Israel (staying more than one night). About 56% of all incoming tourists in 2012 were Christian. About half were Catholic (808,000), and nearly 30% of all incoming tourists defined themselves as pilgrims.

The Ministry said 90% of all Christian tourists visit Jerusalem. About two-thirds of all Christian tourists in 2012 visited the Dead Sea area (68%); Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (62%), Bethlehem (60%) and just over half visited Nazareth (56%) and Capernaum (55%). The most visited sites by Christian tourists include the …read more
Source: The Algemeiner


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