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December 21, 2022 5:07 pm
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120,000 Pilgrims Expected in Israel Over Christmas Week

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avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A Christian worshipper holds a baby as he walks in the plaza of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City October 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Some 120,000 Christian pilgrims are expected to visit Israel over Christmas week, the country’s Ministry of Tourism announced Tuesday.

While pilgrims typically constitute 20 percent of tourists to Israel, that number is expected to increase to 40 percent during the Christmas period, according to the ministry.

Free roundtrip transportation will be offered between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for those interested in participating in celebrations on Christmas eve and the afternoon of Christmas day.

While the figure represents a dip from the number of pilgrims visiting Israel during Christmas week before the Covid-19 pandemic — about 135,000 in 2018 and about 150,000 in 2019 — the ministry has been expressing optimism over the recovery of incoming tourism.

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Israel was among the first countries to shut its borders in response to the 2020 outbreak, stunting its tourism sector just after it welcomed an all-time high number of visitors in 2019.

Jerusalem has since lifted pandemic-related entry restrictions, no longer requiring foreigners to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or to test for the virus before or after arrival.

“Based on the pace of tourist entries to date, it is estimated that incoming tourism in 2022 will reach about 2.6 to 2.7 million tourist entries,” the ministry said. “Within a short period of time, Israel will be back to pre-COVID record levels for incoming tourism (4.55 million tourists in 2019).”

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