When comparing long-term travel plans among Christian friends, the one country on everyone's list, without exception, is Israel. But obstacles like cost — a typical return flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv will run well over $1000 — mean that many pilgrims tend to make the journey later in life. Looking back on my own experience in Israel in 2009, once I prayed in the places where Jesus ministered, and read the Biblical accounts right where they happened, I was grateful that I did not wait.
According to the Israel’s statistics, I was one of a growing number of pilgrims in recent years. In a new episode of Catholic Focus
, I discuss this influx with Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov. He says that despite a 25% decrease in tourism worldwide in 2011, the number of Canadian travelers to Israel has continued to climb. In 2011, Canadians counted for 70,000 of the 3.5 million tourists to Israel. Overall, two-thirds of the country’s visitors are Christians.
The Minister of Tourism admits that political instability in the region has hampered tourism. While Israel remains stable, neighbouring Egypt and Syria have been fraught with civil unrest. Misezhnikov is concerned that some would-be travelers, reading the disturbing headlines from afar, aren’t distinguishing between the different countries. Israel must counter the misconception that the entire region is unsafe.
Judging by the numbers of visitors, it seems Israel is largely succeeding. Wednesday night on Catholic Focus, Misezhnikov tells us why now is the time for Christians to make their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Also in this episode, which airs at 7:00 & 11:00 pm ET / 8:00 pm PT, we visit the newly built Gospel Trail in Northern Israel and go behind the scenes of the Salt + Light documentary Within Your Gates