Israel’s Ministry of Tourism announced that 3.6 million tourists visited the country in 2017. Twenty-five percent of them went for religious purposes, reports Israeli financial newspaper Globes English.

The Ministry expected a 20 percent increase in Christian pilgrims during the Christmas season compared to the same period last year.

“Israel invites the faithful from all religions to pray, worship and visit all the holy sites in Israel in freedom and security,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Last year, 2.9 million tourists visited Israel. More than half of the tourists were Christians—120,000 pilgrims visited Jerusalem in December alone.

Levin added that, “I am proud to take this opportunity to announce that this year we have broken all previous records for incoming tourism, and are set to end 2017 with a record 3.5 million tourists – half a million more than the previous record.”

Last year, 2.9 million tourists visited Israel. More than half of the tourists were Christians—120,000 pilgrims visited Jerusalem in December alone.

The majority of Christian tourists, or 40 percent, crowded the famous pilgrimage sites in Israel. These include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives, Capernaum, Church of the Annunciation, and City of David, according to The Jerusalem Post.

A free shuttle service was provided to transfer tourists in Jerusalem and Bethlehem on December 24 and 25.

Meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to be a personal tour guide to Christian tourists, Reuters reports.

In a Christmas Eve video, Netanyahu expressed his desire to take Christian pilgrims on a guided tour in Jerusalem. He mentioned several religious destinations in Israel which would take visitors “in the footsteps of Jesus and the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Sources:
Globes English
The Jerusalem Post
Reuters

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Joyce has more than 15 years experience writing news, industry articles and blogs for the private and public sectors. Most of her career was spent writing technical documentation for a software company in the Philippines. She earned a B.A. in Communication Arts with a concentration in writing from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. During her leisure time, Joyce pursues her interest reading fiction and playing with her dogs. She can be contacted at Joyce@onechristianvoice.com.