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November 20, 2016 6:33 am

Travel From North America to Israel Projected to Jump 5 Percent in 2016

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A cable car ascending the Masada fortress, one of Israel's most popular tourist destinations. Photo: K.Szajowski via Wikimedia Commons.

A cable car ascending the Masada fortress, one of Israel’s most popular tourist destinations. Photo: K.Szajowski via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – A record number of North Americans have traveled to the Jewish state since January, and Israeli tourism officials expect 2016 to end with five percent more visitors than were recorded  during the previous year.

By October, some 535,000 Americans and Canadians had already visited Israel — representing an additional 10,000 people from the same period in 2015, Uri Steinberg, Israel’s tourism commissioner for North America, told JNS.org Thursday.

Despite the turmoil in the Middle East and an ongoing threat of terrorism, the country’s history and culture continues to encourage individuals to visit, Steinberg said.

“Israel right now is a happy place,” he told JNS.org. “You see a lot of smiling faces and people speaking different languages other than Hebrew, Arabic and English on the streets.”

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Israeli officials expect the tourism spike to continue into 2017, which will see the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

“Israel is on people’s bucket list,” said Russell Robinson, CEO of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a group which sponsors trips to Israel.

JNF is gearing up for May 22, when Israel will celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem that capped its historic 1967 victory. The organization will host a ceremony at Ammunition Hill — the site of the pivotal battle that led to the city’s re-capture — featuring Israeli officials, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and other dignitaries.

JNF is offering May 2017 trips for first-time visitors, interfaith families, young professionals aged 25-40 and donors.

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