A new website launched by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism promotes visits to the country by evangelical Christians, offering information on places of interest, events and tour guides.
There are also sample itineraries packed with stops at biblical sites. For example, a day on one itinerary begins with a visit to Ein Karem, the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist, and wraps up in Jerusalem. Some of the highlights along the way: “Drive west to the Valley of Ayalon, where Joshua called on the Lord to make the moon stand still . . . Stop at Emmaus on the road to which Jesus appeared to two of his disciples when they left Jerusalem after his Crucifixion . . . Continue to the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath . . . ”
The website links to a list of more than 30 tour operators across Canada selling Israeli packages.
Last year about 16,000 Canadians went to Israel on Christian-themed tours or pilgrimages — a quarter of the total number of Canadian tourists to the country, said Oded Grofman, Toronto-based director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in Canada. Christian tours from Canada are expected to be worth $50 million to the Israeli economy this year.
Growing interest in faith-based trips is a worldwide trend, said Grofman.
“I don’t think it’s only to Israel. . . . I think people all over the world want something different in their trips, something spiritual, something transforming.”
Overall, Israel’s tourism industry is having its best year ever, Grofman said. About 2.4 million visitors came in the first nine months of 2010 from around the world, up six per cent from 2008, the previous best year.
On the web: www.evangelicalisraelexperience.com