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A New Itinerary Follows the Footsteps of Mary through the Holy Land

11 January, 201111 January, 2011 0 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized

Israeli tourism is forging a new path for Christian tourists to the Jewish state following the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The itinerary, inaugurated Tuesday, is specifically geared to Catholic tourism, the largest segment of incoming Christian tourism to Israel. In 2010, a record 3.45 million tourists visited Israel, 69 percent of whom were Christian and more than half of them Catholic.

“The Christian world looks to the Holy Land as an important reference point for their faith and life,” said Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land. While Christians come primarily to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, he said, “We cannot talk about the life of Jesus without talking about his mother, the Holy Virgin.”

ein karem, st. john'sThe new itinerary was developed by the Tourism Ministry in order to capitalize on the Catholic market. The tour encourages pilgrimages to sites where the Jewish woman was born, raised and visited including her birthplace near Nazareth, the town where she visited her cousin Elizabeth and her tomb near Jerusalem.

Tourism officials said they hope to encourage return visits to Israel by Christians. The itinerary is printed in English, but will be translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese as well. The booklet entitled "A Holy Land Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of the Virgin Mary," includes information on the sites, operating hours and accessibility, and is being distributed to tourism wholesalers and tour operators specializing in Catholic and Christian pilgrimages from around the world. An abridged version of the booklet can be found on the Tourism Ministry's dedicated Catholic website: www.holyland-pilgrimage.org

The ceremony announcing the new itinerary took place in the Eden-Tamir Music Center in Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem.

“The Holy Land is the homeland of the Virgin Mary, where all the important events in her life took place, and it is only natural to follow a pilgrimage itinerary in her footsteps,” said Tourism Minister Director General Noaz Bar-Nir.

He noted that the booklet was written specifically for pilgrimage tour operators, to suggest these new itineraries for Catholic pilgrims who are seeking to enrich and enhance their spiritual experience in the Holy Land.

"In the Footsteps of the Virgin Mary," complements sites and places pertinent in the life of Jesus. Mary was born in Tzippori in the Galilee. In Nazareth, pilgrims can visit Mary's Well and the Mary of Nazareth International Center. Elijah's Cave is on the tour since Christian tradition identifies it as the place where the Holy Family rested on its way back from Egypt.

ein karem, church of visitationEin Karem, the town in which the Jan. 11 ceremony was held, is the birthplace of John the Baptist, where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth while they were both pregnant. Abu Gosh, an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with the Church of Notre Dame de l'Arche de l'Alliance is on the tour along with workshops related to ceramics, agriculture, traditional cooking and weaving.

The Custos encouraged first-time and return visits to the land.

“A pilgrimage to the Holy Land – which should be taken at least once in a lifetime – can change one’s life, as it offers the opportunity to perceive, touch, see and connect to the Bible,” Pizzaballa said.

Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Users can learn, plan and share their travel experiences on Travelujah.


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