According to Tourism Ministry estimates, about 75,000 tourists will visit Israel during the Christmas period. Of these about 25,000 will be Christian pilgrims.
During the holiday, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free transportation, helping pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave every 15-20 minutes from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity, and back again and will operate non-stop from December 24 at 12 pm through December 25 at 12 pm.
Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with sweets and cards in the spirit of the holiday.
To date, the year 2012 will end as a new record year for incoming tourism. About 3.3 million visitors arrived in Israel up to the end of November 2012, and of these 60% were Christian tourists (52% Catholic; 21% Protestant and 10% Orthodox).
Source countries where pilgrims represent a very high rate among those visiting include Indonesia (83%), Nigeria (82%), Poland (69%), Portugal (59%), Romania (57%), India (50% and Brazil (49%).
“About 60% of all visitors to Israel are Christian,” said Minister Misezhnikov. “The Christian community is a central anchor in marketing incoming tourism to Israel.
“Throughout the year, the Tourism Ministry works with the communities in Israel and overseas to increase cooperation with opinion-formers, community leaders and the faithful in order to promote and develop pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”
Shalom, and Jesus loves you.