Israel Launches Tours in the Footsteps of Mary
Israel's Tourism Ministry has launched a new campaign for Christian pilgrims who would like to know more about the life of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Tour operators are able to plan special pilgrimages for tourists who wish to trace Mary's footsteps in the Holy Land, visiting the spots where she is supposed to have lived and traveled.
Lina Haddad, Israel's director of marketing for religious tourism told reporters Tuesday a full-color booklet outlining the new itinerary in English will also be translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. The itinerary includes Mary's birthplace near Nazareth, located in northern Israel, her Tomb near Jerusalem, Mary's Spring, and more.
In addition, the Israeli government has coordinated its efforts with the Palestinian Authority so as to facilitate trips to Bethlehem and other Christian holy sites in Judea and Samaria.
Slightly more than two-thirds of the 3.5 million tourists who came to Israel in 2010 were Christian, most of whom were Catholic.
For Christians, “the Holy Land is the physical connection with the life of Jesus,” Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Roman Catholic Church custodian of the Holy Land explained to the Associated Press. He added that one could not talk about the life of Jesus without also talking about his mother, however.