Dear Friend,
This is the first edition of our Newsletter "What's New in the Holy Land". With the establishment of the Christian Pilgrimage Desk, we want to share with you some of our activities with the different communities in the Holy Land.

We will appreciate receiving your comments on the newsletter with suggestions for improvements. Please forward the newsletter to members of your communities and friends. Those wishing to be included in our newsletter list can forward their request to:
wecare@tourism.gov.il

For our readers in Israel, thank you for your partnership. For those abroad, we hope to see you soon in the Holy Land.

 
Tourism Minister, Mr. Isaac Herzog, initiated a number of special activities to regenerate pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Visit the Holy Land Now!
Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog: "Everybody should share the beauty and holiness of the Holy Land" Apostolic Delegate, Antonio Franco: "I call Christian Pilgrims to visit and vow to do whatever is in my power to promote and encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land" ICEJ Executive, Timothy King: "I call out to strengthen Israel and visit the sources of faith" Palestinian Private Hotel and Trade Association Representative, Elias El Arja: "I call to renew pilgrimage and increase the cooperation between all the people of the region"
Special honor and a warm welcome were given to H.E. Msgr. Antonio Franco, the incoming Ambassador and Apostolic Delegate in the Holy Land at the festive holiday reception hosted by the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem. More than 60 heads of the Christian communities in the Holy Land participated.

The Apostolic Delegate called on Christian Pilgrims to visit and vowed to do whatever is in his power to promote and encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Latin Patriarch also called on Pilgrims to come to the Holy Land thereby bringing with them a message of peace.

Leading Evangelical leader Timothy King called out to strengthen Israel and visit the sources of faith.

On behalf of the Palestinian Private Hotel and Trade Association, El Arja called to renew pilgrimage and increase the cooperation between all the people of the region.
The board of directors of the Pentecostal European Fellowship, an umbrella organization of over 40 denominations across Europe representing close to 5 million members announced at a reception hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem that it has decided to take a stand of friendship and solidarity with Israel.

Rev. Ingolf Ellssel of Germany, the Chairman of PEF, told the gathering "Our agenda will include more than prayer and words of support, but practical measures such as encouraging business investment in Israel and Christian tourism to the Holy Land…".
The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus is a direct line of communication, cooperation and coordination between the members of Knesset and Christian leaders of churches, organizations and representatives throughout the world. The late Knesset Member Dr. Yuri Shtern was the leading sponsor of the KCAC, may he rest in peace. Knesset Member Benny Alon and former Minister of Tourism is the presiding Knesset sponsor.

The World Jewish Congress in co-operation with the KCAC, hosted an evening in honor of Christian Organizations in Israel and abroad. Special recognition was given to Pastor John Hagee as the recipient of the 3rd annual "Night to Honor our Christian Organizations" Award for his steadfast commitment to the State of Israel and his establishment of the Christians United for Israel. Unable to appear in person Pastor Hagee prepared a special video message to the forum reaffirming his support of Israel and the experience of visiting the Holy Land.
The Israel Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the KCAC gave special recognition to Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem as the recipient of the First Annunal "Joint Tourism Ministry – Knesset Christian Organizations Caucus Tourism Award". "Everyone has to come and visit Israel", Rev. Malcolm said. The ICEJ greets 5,000 participants from all over the world at the Feast of Tabernacle and welcomes many more annually.
The Neocatechumenal Way at Domus Galilaea hosted the Asian Bishop's Conference this year reaching out to 400 participants who attended, many of whom were visiting the Holy Land for the first time. This was also the first time such a Conference was held in Israel. The participants were Catholic Bishops and clergymen from Asia and the Far East including Australia, China, Japan, India and more.

At Notre Dame in Jerusalem, Custos of the Holy Land Pierbattista Pizzaballa joined with Fr. Mario Pezzi, Francisco Arguello and Carmen Hernandes of the Neocatechumenal Way and participated in the joyous assembly. Ministry of Tourism official Mr. Raphael Ben-Hur, met with the participants and greeted them saying "The Holy Land welcomes everyone as family." The Tourism Services Administration assisted with the procedure to attain visas. Each participant received from the Tourism Ministry a personal Pilgrimage Certificate along with a tourism kit which included greetings from Minister of Tourism, an "Israel loves you" pin and additional relevant tourism material. Each participant also received a copy of the Ministry of Tourism DVD of the visit of His Holiness, the late Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, entitled, "A visit to the Roots of Faith". THE BISHOPS PROCLAIMED THEY WOULD RETURN TO THE HOLY LAND AND PROMOTE PILGRIMAGES.
On February 22, The Ministry of Tourism is hosting a second tour of the archaeological site disclosed by the Israel Antiquities Authority which has revealed a building dated to the third century CE. with a mosaic floor bearing geometric patterns, a medallion decorated with drawings of fish, and three Greek inscriptions. All the inscriptions are related to Christian community ritual activities that took place in the building. The incorporation of the three inscriptions that also link a Roman army officer to Christianity in a building that dates prior to the recognition of Christianity as an official religion is rare and unique and very important toward the understanding of early Christianity.

In our next edition, we hope to present you with comments and additional information about the site.
During Christmas Eve, Tourism Minister, Mr. Isaac Herzog and Ministry of Tourism Director General, Nachum Itzkovitz greeted local and visiting foreign Christian leaders in Nazareth. "We want to see Nazareth on the tourist map and call out to Visit Nazareth Now!", declared the Tourism Minister during the holiday-eve reception with city's religious and municipal leaders at the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Outside, thousands of Christian Arabs joined in the Christmas Eve procession led by hundreds of teenage scouts and marching bands playing drums and bagpipes. Later, the Minister and Director General joined the worshippers attending the overflowing Midnight Mass at the Basilica.
Pilgrims are enjoying a smooth passage between Jerusalem and Bethlehem as procedures for crossing have been greatly simplified. In addition, The Ministry of Tourism has established an office at Rachel's Crossing to facilitate group passage.
On Christmas Eve, thousands of Pilgrims and local Israeli Christians passed safely without delay between Bethlehem and Jerusalem at Rachel's Crossing due to the extensive preparations organized by the Ministry of Tourism in coordination with the Israel Police, Defense Forces and the Jerusalem Municipality. Tourism Ministry staff manned Rachel's Crossing to greet the tourists and handed out Christmas greetings in Hebrew, Arabic and English, trinkets and candy in the holiday spirit. Pilgrims embraced the staff and sang songs of praise.

Also, free shuttles traveled between Jerusalem to Bethlehem during the holidays courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism. Both Israeli and Palestinian newspapers carried extensive information about the preparations, procedures and services available on Christmas.

For advance coordination of group passage at Rachel's Crossing, please contact the CHRISTIAN PILGRIMAGE DESK at: wecare@tourism.gov.il
Special UK Delegation all agree: The conditions have been met for revitalizing the pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Senior Deputy Director Generals of the Tourism Ministry, Mr. Raphael Ben-Hur,( Tourism Services) and Mr. Oren Drori (Tourism Marketing), along with staff of the Tourism Services Administration met with the distinguished delegation of Church leaders from the UK visiting Israel during the Holiday Season. The delegation was led by His Eminence the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Douglas Williams; His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; His Beatitude Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, The Armenian Patriarch of Great Britain; and David Coffey, the moderator of the Free Churches; Included in the delegation were an additional twelve religious leaders. Participating in the meeting were representatives of the local Palestinian Private Hotel and Trade Association who expressed in their quest for peace and prosperity for all, continuous support for joint cooperation between the Jerusalem and Bethlehem tourism bureaus in the promotion of tourism and pilgrimages. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor stated on the "Today" UK interview that the purpose of the visit "is as an act of solidarity with local communities … and more pilgrims need to come to the Holy Land…" .


For Your Information: Special Services for the Tourist to Israel
The Ministry of Tourism, through its Tourism Services Administration, offers a basket of services through travel agents/pilgrimage organizers and other tourist entities. Details can be found at our internet website:
Tourism Services or contact your local Israel Government Tourist Office(IGTO) or the Christian Pilgrimage Desk at the Ministry of Tourism in Jerusalem: wecare@tourism.gov.il, Our newly formed Desk will gladly respond to all of your queries.