Published on : Friday, December 22, 2017
The Tourism Ministry of Israel said that over tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims are expected to arrive in the country for the Christmas holiday, making it a record-breaking year of more than 3.5 million.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin expressed pride in the record numbers of annual visitors and said that there is about 20% increase in the number of Christian visitors as compared to that in last year.
He continued saying that Israel invites the faithful from all religions to pray, worship and visit all the holy sites in Israel in freedom and security. “I am proud to take this opportunity to announce that this year we have broken all previous records for incoming tourism, and are set to end 2017 with a record 3.5 million tourists – half a million more than the previous record.”
He attributed this record growth to the ongoing international tourism campaign. The official statistics showed that more than half of the 2.9 million tourists in 2016 were Christian, and approximately 120,000 of the tourists who visited last December were Christian pilgrims. The ministry also said that the vast majority of Christian tourists visit Jerusalem out of which 40% visits Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives, Capernaum, Church of the Annunciation, and City of David are amongst the most visited sites by the tourists.
Anticipating a 20% increase over Christmas, the ministry said it is offering free shuttle service on buses every 30 minutes between Jerusalem and Bethlehem beginning on Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. There will be buses leaving every thirty minutes near the Carta parking lot and it will also stop near the entrance to the Mar Elias Monastery, and at the Rosmarin Junction, before continuing via Rachel’s Crossing to Bethlehem and then back again. The schedules however are subject to changes depending on the demand.