Tourists at Kotel 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Over a quarter of a million foreign tourists are expected to visit during Pessah and Easter, the Tourism Ministry reported on Friday.
The seven-day Pessah holiday begins on Monday evening.
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Next weekend Easter, both Western and Eastern Orthodox, begins, bringing tens of thousands of Christians.
One of the highlights of the pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians is the
Ceremony of the Holy Fire, to be held next Saturday in the Church of the
Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. The ceremony brings
thousands of worshipers into the alleyways of the Old City as the fire
is passed among the faithful.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov has promoted a number of initiatives to
encourage Christian tourism in Israel, as part of the “Faith Tourism”
program. These projects include launching the modular Gospel Trail,
which will be completed in May and will offer pilgrims the opportunity
to hike, bike, travel by car and by boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Last week, the government reported that 741,000 tourists arrived during
the first quarter of 2011, a drop of 1 percent from the same period last
year. In March, about 274,000 tourists arrived, 12% less than in March
2010 and 37% more than in March 2009.
The government sees the drop in tourists as being related to the recent
unrest in the Middle East as well as the fact that last year Pessah and
Easter fell in March and not in April as happened this year.
“The Tourism Ministry must contend with the geopolitical consequences in
the area that are likely to affect incoming tourism traffic to Israel.
In recent weeks, the ministry initiated a series of marketing activities
that have succeeded in ensuring continuing demand for tourism to
Israel. These activities will continue in the near future and we expect
the month of April, with the festivals of Pessah and Easter, to continue
this trend,” Meseznikov said.
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