Biblical heartland gears up for Passover tourism

Binyamin Region of Samaria is bursting with incredible tourism attractions - and they want the world to know it.

Ari Soffer ,

Talmonim Bicycle track, West Binyamin
Talmonim Bicycle track, West Binyamin
Binyamin Regional Council

The Passover holidays typically see a major boost to Israeli tourism, with both domestic and foreign tourists flocking to holy sites, or to enjoy the holy land's beautiful spring weather.

One area of Israel which has experienced significant growth in the number of visitors over the past several years has been the Samaria region where, despite - and at time precisely because of - the complex security and political situation, ever more Israeli and foreign tourists have been traveling to experience Israel's Biblical heartland firsthand.

The growth of Samaria's tourism industry has been spurred both by a concerted effort by locals to market their communities and holy sites, as well as recent government investments to the region.

But the most significant factor of all is the region itself - a point the Binyamin Regional Council (situated immediately north of Jerusalem) has underlined in a new campaign highlighting the wide range of attractions in their backyard; from ancient historical and Biblical sites and archaeological digs, to nature reserves, bike trails, fine wines, hotels and more.

And it's all just a short drive from Jerusalem and Israel's beaches.

The Binyamin Regional Council's new viral video showcases some of the 36 activities available from visiting ancient Shiloh, to swimming in the 9 springs and riding camels at Eretz Bereshit, to visiting internationally acclaimed wineries and breathtaking hikes across multiple nature reserves.

In recent months the increase of tourism to Judea and Samaria has made international headlines with talk of the over 200 hundred Bed and Breakfasts options available - much to the anger of anti-Israel organizations - 50 of which are located in the Binyamin Region. 

In addition the council has launched a new website to showcase its wares, which includes a state of the art new virtual tour.

A beta version of the virtual tour even offers viewers a birds-eye view of Western Binyamin with the aid of hours of interactive drone footage. Online visitors can fly over the gorgeous landscapes and get a real feel for the region, then click on whatever takes their fancy for an in depth explanation of the site.

In recent years the Yesha Council together with the 6 regional councils and 13 local councils that it represents has hugely invested in telling its story to the world.

Their efforts have paid off: the last five years tourism has increased significantly across Judea and Samaria, with tourism-related businesses more than doubling, and the opening of fifteen new visitors centers, all of which offer presentations in multiple international languages. The local wine industry has also blossomed, now boasting over 20 boutique wineries, making internationally acclaimed wine straight from the ancient hills of Israel.

Some 1.5 million tourists now visit sites across Judea and Samaria annually - the major demographic being faith-based tourists, both Jewish and Christian, with a special interest in Judeo-Christian history. 

"This Pesach we are expecting a huge rise in tourism to the Binyamin region in particular and Judea and Samaria in general, because there is just so much more for people to do here," said Miri Maoz-Ovadia, spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council. "We are especially looking forward to welcoming all of our supporters from abroad that are visiting Israel for the holiday and understand the importance of visiting the Biblical heartland of Israel."