Tourism in Israel, PA thrives on eve of UN vote

By NICOLE JANSEZIAN, TRAVELUJAH
September 22, 2011 17:50

“Our feast pilgrims know this is the time to come to show solidarity with Israel,” says spokesman for International Christian Embassy in J'lem.

3 minute read.



Jerusalem

Jerusalem 311. (photo credit: Joe Yudin)

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While the international stage is awash with demonstrations and wrangling over the vote in the United Nations this week for Palestinian statehood, tourism in Israel and the Palestinian territories seems to be continuing unabated despite the acrimony surrounding the political situation.

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One tour guide told Travelujah that none of his groups or any that he knows of have cancelled trips to Israel and cities in the Palestinian Authority such as Bethlehem.

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“In fact, people are surprised, after leaving the PA, how secure it is,” the tour guide, who asked not to be named, told Travelujah, the only Christian social network about travel to the Holy Land. “I don't even see a hesitation among tourists to go there. They may hesitate visiting Israel in general, but once they are here they are not afraid.”

According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 3.6 million visitors came to Israel during the year 5771 on the Hebrew calendar - a 17 percent increase over the previous year - even while unrest in the Middle East caused an overall drop in travel to the region.

“Israel is a tourism challenge for every Israeli tourist and, of course, for foreign tourists,” said Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov. "The upcoming holiday season is a wonderful time of year to travel, and I call upon everyone to get out, see the sites, learn about Israel’s heritage and history while taking care of the natural surroundings.”

More than 300,000 visitors are expected to visit Israel during the fall holiday season and many of these are Christians. These numbers prove true on the ground as tour groups forge ahead with their Holy Land travels.

For example, the God TV tour with Kim Clement, which will feature live broadcasts on the satellite Christian network, began on Tuesday with approximately 600 people, none of whom cancelled their trip in light of the turmoil surrounding the UN vote.

And later in October, for Succot, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) expects some 6,000 Christian tourists to attend the week-long event. David Parsons, spokesman for the ICEJ, which hosts the largest Christian event of the year in Israel, said registration hasn't waned this year.

“Our feast pilgrims know this is the time to come to show solidarity with Israel,” Parsons told Travelujah. “People ask us what is the mood (in the country),” he said, but “pilgrims are still signing up.”

The ICEJ will even offer bus tours that travel along the pre-1967 and of flash points in Jerusalem.

Parsons said tourism will likely rise during the fall, which is peak season. “I think it would really have to get out of hand to get cancellations,” he said.

One Christian tourist from Texas made his third pilgrimage to the Holy Land despite the negative news reports. On his way to the Western Wall, Larry told Travelujah that he feels safe and unhindered traveling around the country.

Both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have beefed up their defenses in anticipation of potential problems, but as of Wednesday - when large rallies were expected to take place in New York outside the UN - no major violence had been reported in the Holy Land.

Christians here are paying close attention to the events in New York. Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was among many priests in the region to back the Palestinian bid. During his Sunday Mass in the Palestinian city of Nablus he called for a UN vote for a Palestinian state.

A joint statement was also issued by various Palestinian Christian clergy–including Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans—to “support the diplomatic efforts made to achieve international recognition of the state of Palestine ... on the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as our capital.”


Travelujah.com is a Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


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