Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israel Prepares for Record 2 Million Christian Tourists to Bethlehem in 2013

December 2, 2013 3:10 pm 5 comments

A billion Christians around the world revere the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (pictured) in the Old City as Jesus's burial place, but a recently aired film on the Discovery Channel casts some doubt on that belief. Photo: Berthold Werner.

Christian tourists to Bethlehem are expected to reach a record 2 million in 2013, up sharply from the 1.18 million recorded in 2012, the Israeli Tourism Ministry said on Monday. At end-October, according to Tourism Ministry statistics, 1.85 million tourists had passed from Jerusalem through Rachel’s 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 to the Holy Land. 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, staying more than one night, visited Israel. About 56% of all incoming tourists in 2012 were Christian. 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 Church of the Holy Sepulchre: 84%; Via Dolorosa: 82%; Western Wall: 82%; Mount of Olives: 82%; Jewish Quarter: 79%; Church of the Annunciation: 61%; Capernaum: 55% and the Yardenit baptism site: 46%. Some other interesting characteristics of Christian tourism, based on the Tourism Ministry Inbound Tourism Survey, include their average length of stay: 7.7 nights ; Average expenditure: $1483; Average expenditure per day: $187 per day;  83% visit within the framework of an organized tour; 80% of all Christian tourists are first-time visitors; 20% of pilgrims are repeat visitors, with about 32% of them having visited within the last two years. The major source countries for Christian tourism are Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Mexico (mainly Catholics); Russia and Romania (mainly Orthodox); Nigeria (Catholics and Protestants). During the holiday, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free transportation, helping pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with buses leaving from the Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and back again. The buses will operate non-stop from December 24th at noon through noon of Christmas day. Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will be welcoming tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with a gift bag containing a set of coasters depicting scenes of Israel and chocolate in the spirit of the holiday. The Ministry said that the schedule for this year opens on December 11, in Nazareth, with the lighting of the Christmas tree and the traditional Christmas market, selling Christmas decorations and gifts, through December 15. On December 22, Tourism Minister Landau will host the traditional reception for Church leaders and representatives in Nazareth, at the Golden Crown Hotel Nazareth. The reception, which will include the participation of the Director-General of the Tourism Ministry Amir Halevi and the new Mayor of Nazareth Ali Salam, will include an artistic program with  singer Maria Jubran. On December 23, the Minister will host the traditional pre-Christmas reception for leaders of the Christian communities and churches in Israel at the Shimshon Center,  Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem. Halevi will also participate in the reception alongside the Christian leaders, and representatives of the Church, government and private bodies involved in promoting Christian tourism to the Holy Land. The minister will send season’s greetings for Christmas to the Christian communities and invite the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On December 24, the traditional parade of thousands of local youth, together with the leaders of the Christian communities, will pass through Nazareth and end at the plaza in front of the Basilica with a firework display, sponsored by the Tourism Ministry, to announce the opening of the festive Christmas celebrations, followed by Christmas Mass celebrated in the Basilica of the Annunciation.

5 Comments

  • During last may 2012 I have visited Israel with my family-my wife,daughter and my elder sister.We were part of a tourist group led by Dr. Ajith Kumar an engineer turned christian evangelist from his younger ages, who has very deep knowledge of the Bible.He has a doctoral degree in theology and teaching in many Indian theological colleges.His leader ship made the trip memorable,unforgettable and spiritually awakening and thank God.The Israeli people, the officials,the hotel staff and drivers were all helpful and especially the Christian Arab guide.This land has something divine and and keep on calling us to visit Israel again through the places where our Lord Jesus walked.
    Thank you.
    The trip ignited the spiritual fire in us

  • Do not be happy. Isarel does not need such idoletry influence. Rambam is against.

  • Judy Silver-Shapiro

    As JEWISH self-loathers and those who do not prioritize ISRAEL or JEWISH continuity and fail to support ISRAEL, loyal Christians don’t cancel their visits.
    Personally in my 30+ visits to the JEWISH Homeland,I have always seen polite Christians all over JERUSALEM, especially at the KOTEL.

  • Joseph Silver

    It is wonderful that Israel is making efforts to connect with those who today can and should be our allies.
    As Uzi Landau said, Israel has ALWAYS respected the rights of other Faiths to freedom of Worship. I wish it would do the same for me when I want to worship in MY holiest site as a Jew – the Temple Mount!

  • How many of these use – ILLEGALLY – priests and unlicensed ARAB guides for their tours and visit Israel as if Jews were not even there?
    It’s almost ALL the Catholic pilgrims from Europe and South America who do so.
    That is MOST of the Xtian visitors.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →