Israeli Guides in Bethlehem

Fifty Israeli tour guides were allowed to guide tourists in Bethlehem and Jericho for the first time since 2000.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 21:29

Israel news photo: Flash 90

Fifty Israeli tour guides and drivers were allowed to guide tourists in Bethlehem and Jericho for the first time since 2000, in a joint Tourism Ministry and Civil Administration pilot project that has been deemed a success. Civil Administration Head Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai informed Tourism Ministry Director-General Rafael Ben-Hur that, following an assessment by Central Command and the Civil Administration, he has agreed to expand the pilot project to include 100 tour guides and 100 drivers.   

The project, which involved 50 Jewish and Druze Israeli tour guides and drivers, was launched in June. The Tourism Ministry’s initiative followed many requests from tourism industry professionals and from tourists to allow the professional guides who accompany groups during their visits to Israel to continue guiding them on their visits to Bethlehem, a must-go spot for Christian tourists. 
Following the Tourism Ministry's request, the Civil Administration issued clear regulations in early January for Israeli tour guides and drivers entering Bethlehem. About 500 tour guides and drivers asked to participate in the pilot project.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov praised the tour guides and the cooperation with the Palestinian Authority: “I see great importance in the guided tours in Bethlehem which will facilitate an increase in the scope of the tour guides’ work, allow for top-level tours for tourists, an increase in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and, of no less importance, an improvement in the international image of Israel and the Holy Land as a safe destination for tourists.”
In the last two years, cooperation between the Tourism Ministry and the tourism entities in the Palestinian Authority has been strengthened and joint activities to promote tourism have generated over a million visitors and tourists to Bethlehem in 2008 and more than 1.3 million visitors in 2009.