christian pilgrims 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Thousands of Christian pilgrims will visit Jerusalem for the Feast of
Tabernacles celebration later this week.
According to the Tourism
Ministry, roughly 7,000 Christian from 100 countries will participate in the
event, which is sponsored by the International Christian Embassy
The thousands of pilgrims, who will stay in Israel for more
than a week, are expected to contribute tens of thousands of overnight stays in
hotels around the country and the overall income to the Israeli economy is
estimated at between $15 million and $20m.
“Christian tourism to Israel,
in all its streams, represents the main target audience on which the Tourism
Ministry focuses its marketing efforts in order to increase incoming tourism,”
said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov. “In the framework of the new branding of
Israel as the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its center, the ministry operates in
all spheres in order to turn these pilgrims into ambassadors for tourism to
Israel in their home countries.”
The ministry will operate an information
booth at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, distribute information
and flyers to pilgrims about the country’s tourist attractions and provide
assistance as required.
On Thursday, Meseznikov will host a festive
reception at the convention center for the heads of the Christian communities
and will present a gift to Brazilian evangelical minister Renê Terra Nova, who
with 1,000 participants leads the largest group of pilgrims coming to the
This week the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem marks its
The week of festivities will be Israel’s largest annual
tourist event and the largest solidarity mission to Israel.
Christian Embassy has established a remarkable record of standing in support of
Israel and a united Jerusalem over the past three decades, whether through our
many humanitarian projects across the land, our advocacy efforts worldwide, or
our annual festival gathering in Jerusalem. This event has drawn well over
150,000 Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem during the past 30 years, with a
cumulative financial impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Rev.
Malcolm Hedding, ICEJ’s executive director. “We look forward to celebrating our
30th anniversary with our Israeli friends and guests.”
chairman of the Israeli Tour Guide Association, said that Christian pilgrims
make up an essential part in the demand for Israel’s tourism
“Their support for Israel is not only political or
They support us with their money, too. According to the
figures we have, they make up a higher percentage than Jewish tourists and their
patronage represents a significant contribution to the sector,” he
According to Weiss, many of the pilgrims stay at high-end hotels
and nearly all of them hire licensed Israeli guides.
Christians in particular tend to come to Israel for relatively long
seven or eight nights and also tend to spend all their money in the
The pilgrims tend to spread their touring all around the country
and like to see all the places mentioned in the Old Testament. You won’t
them relaxing on the beach in Tel Aviv or Eilat.”
director-general of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, said
pilgrimage was the second largest draw for tourism to Israel, following
vacation and travel as the main motivation for visiting the
Etgar said that the peak seasons for pilgrim tourism to Israel
were in the fall and in the spring, in time for Easter
While Meseznikov said that the ministry would be focusing
on bringing in additional Christian tourists, it is also looking to
tourism from the Far East. On Monday, Tourism Ministry director-general
Bar-Nir signed a tourism cooperation agreement with his counterpart, Mr.
Suaming, director-general of the Shanghai Tourism Ministry. In the
two sides declared the importance of tourism as a means of promoting
agreed to work together to advance tourism between Israel and Shanghai,
addition to the exchange of information, advertising and the
investments and joint initiatives.
“The Chinese tourism market holds
enormous potential for Israel and, despite annual growth, we have not
to realize this potential.
The tourism industry in China in general, and
in Shanghai and Beijing in particular, displays great interest in and is
to cooperate with Israel. Simplifying the bureaucratic procedures and
airline traffic will facilitate a significant increase in incoming
China,” Bar-Nir said.
In 2009, 10,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel and
more than 7,000 have visited so far this year.