Each year I write an article on tourism to the Holy Land and this year is of particular interest with so much drama in Israel. I have had the privilege of leading two Holy Land tours to Israel for InnerFaith Travel and have therefore had a close association with this type of tourism.
In response to a wave of stabbings, lynchings, and rioting, the Israeli government is taking an unusual approach to woo tourists: offering discounted vacations on Groupon. Israel's Ministry of Tourism will sell discount vacation packages to American tourists via Groupon in a rare example of a government agency directly offering vacation tours via the coupon service.
Yariv Levin, Israel's minister of tourism, told Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Aharonot that the seven-day tripsâwhich will run between $1,000 and $1,400 for all-inclusive packages including airfare, hotels, and other expensesâare designed "to project a sense of business as usual and encourage tourism during the months when hotel occupancies in Israel are low."
I have been advised that while most of Israel's tourist attractionsâwith the possible exception of Jerusalem's Old Cityâremain safe for foreign tourists, the Israeli government is understandably concerned that increased chaos will deter tourists from visiting the country. Winter is traditionally a slow season for foreign tourism, and tourism authorities worry the unrest will cause a further decline in visitors. The past month has seen a spate of stabbings and shootings of civilians across Israel and the West Bank.
There is always much dis-information about Israel and this is a list of 10 false things about Israel. We live in a world where one sided reporting on Israel and in the United Nations is common place.
Russia didn't get United Nations support to come against ISIS, so there is little reason they would bother to do the same against Israel if everything about Israel could be believed. The Russians know it's a nonsense.
Tourism in Israel
There are well trod tourist areas in Israel and I am pleased to provide some of these.
The list is endless it seems but these are some of them: The Garden Tomb and the classical birth place of Christ The Holy Sepulchre where several administrations of faiths share the responsibility of supervision â these are good to visit. The various tombs such as David's and the Upper Room. The model of the 1<sup>st century Jerusalem is a must. The Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The Pool of Bethesda. Some of the Crusader era churches have remarkable acoustics. The Western Wall and the Hezekiah tunnel.
Sea of Galilee
this is a huge area with many communities around its edge on the Israeli side. Tiberius is an amazing place with quite fabulous tourist accommodation. Sea of Galilee boat rides are available and these are very interesting along with video presentations on the Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount was up the hill from the Sea of Galilee (Mount of Beatitudes) and its been said that you can hear people speaking clearly 400 metres away as the gentle on shore winds carry the words. Capernium is also part of this area where Peter's house is sited.
Masada and the Dead Sea
This is a must with the tourist guide giving chapter and verse of the siege in 70AD â the description of the water supply, the natural air conditioning, how food was smuggled, and the views around where the Romans camped. The Dead Sea's remarkable salt - which floats your body regardless of weight.
This depends whether the tour takes the coastal or the inland route. The inland route will take you to see Gideon's Stream and site many of the Old Testament stories along with Qumran and where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The coastal route takes you to Mt Carmel overlooking the Valley of Jezreal where so many biblical prophecies are made let alone seeing the bread basket of Israel's market garden industry. For example, 80% of Europe's oranges come from Israel.
This area may not be available for tourists, but we were allowed. This was to the Golan Heights and some of the amazing temples built into the rocks â the backdrop as to where Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Further north, the Transfiguration.
The road between Jericho and Jerusalem is uphill and this provides the back drop for the wilderness, and it is it just that. This surprised me. It's not far compared to Australian distances, but the starkness of the wilderness is something to behold.
InnerFaith Travel â Next Holy Land Tour
There are many tour options, but as I am associated with InnerFaith Holy Land Tours, this link provides their upcoming April tour. http://www.ift.net.au/tour/tour-to-israel/
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html