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April 13, 2011April 13, 2011  2 comments  Uncategorized

A documentary film, whose release was timed with the Easter season, claims that nails found in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem could have been the very ones used to crucify Jesus.

Though that exact claim is inconclusive, the Israeli-Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici announced his findings on Tuesday in Jerusalem and promoted a new film of his regarding his findings.

“In the future things that look far fetched today may become facts tomorrow,” he said.

Jacobovici, whose findings are oftentimes mired in controversy, displayed two rusted, bent iron nails claiming that perhaps these were the very ones used to crucify Jesus to the cross 2,000 years ago on Golgotha. He said these nails were discovered 20 years ago in a Jerusalem excavation. They were found in a tomb, believed to be the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who handed Jesus over to the Romans to be killed.
“These are probably, possibly, the nails from that Caiaphas tomb. So, if you accept that this is the tomb of Caiaphas and, if you accept that these nails came from that tomb, given that Caiaphas is only associated with the crucifixion of Jesus they very well could be those nails,” Jacobovici said.

His film, “The Nails of the Cross,” will air on the History Channel and other major TV channels during the Easter season in the U.S., Latin America, Canada and on an Israeli channel, the first time Israeli TV will run a program featuring a historical analysis of Christianity.

A 1st-century tomb discovered in East Jerusalem in 1990, believed to be that of Caiaphas, contained the nails. According to Jacobovici, the nails mysteriously disappeared shortly after that until he tracked them down at Tel Aviv University, in the lab of an anthropologist who is an expert on ancient bones.

Jacobovici said 1st-century Jews regarded crucifixion nails to be a talisman of sorts.

But, “there’s no proof that the nails are connected to any bones or proof from textual data that Caiaphas had the nails for the crucifixion with him after the crucifixion took place and after Jesus was taken down from the cross,” said archaeologist Gaby Barkay. “On the other hand, those are possible things.”

Jacobovici speculates that Caiaphas may have become a follower of Jesus and taken the nails, or simply wanted them as an amulet to help him in his afterlife.

“Why would someone take these nails to the grave with them? I would say that in rabbinic literature there is only one kind of nail that is like an amulet and that is crucifixion nails,” Jacobovici said. “I guess that it is an insurance policy in the after life.”
At this point, there is no way to scientifically prove that these are the nails that crucified Jesus.

“From what I understand you cannot get DNA from iron. Maybe in the future they will be able to. So no real testing beyond looking at the limestone has been done on these. I think they have been looked at to see if there is bone residue and none has been found. I don’t think you can get blood and flesh,” Jacobovici said.

The Israel Antiquities Authority issued a statement: “Nails were commonly found in burial tombs of that period. The most accept view is that they were used to carve on the ossuary the name of the deceased. The claim that these nails had any other significance is baseless and a figment of the imagination. The theories presented in the film have no archaeological or scientific basis.”

Four years ago, he teamed up with James Cameron, director of the Titanic, to unveil what they claimed was the ossuary of Jesus. The burial chambers were marked with the names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. These claims were contested by archaeologists and scholars.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

June 16, 2010June 16, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized
After an onslaught of bad press and public opinion in recent weeks, Israel finally got some welcome news as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development chose to hold its annual meeting in Jerusalem instead of Paris.

Israeli tourism officials believe that choosing to host the conference in Jerusalem is a boon to the country’s tourism industry and its economic potential.

“The committee’s decision to hold its annual meeting in Jerusalem and give it a festive and prestigious touch, together with the invitation to tourism ministers from the member countries, is an important vote of confidence with additional significance for promoting tourism and improving Israel’s image around the world,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.

The 86th OECD Tourism Committee conference will include tourism ministers and representatives from member states, as well as from other countries and will take place in October. After the conference, participants will tour the country and visit various tourism sites.

“Israel’s joining the OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for the country,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “The positive image gained will have an effect on the tourist’s choice to visit Israel and it will attract foreign investors to the country, including, among others, investors in tourism.”

June 20, 2010June 20, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized
It has been a record year so far in the number of Catholic visitors to Israel, a pay off to the 10-million shekel investment by the Ministry of Tourism in promoting tourism to the Holy Land from Catholic nations.

But one organization is looking to widen the scope of the Catholic tourism surge to include more about Israel and not just the Holy Land.

“What I’ve noticed from a lot of Catholic tour groups is a kind of ‘Great Disconnect’ between the Israel in the Bible and Israel today,” said Ariel Ben Ami, director of Catholics for Israel. “They don’t even use the word ‘Israel,’ but only ‘Holy Land.’ Many come here to see an open air museum, to see where Jesus walked, to see the holy sites. But they have no experience whatsoever with Israelis or any appreciation for the modern miracle of the re-birth of Israel and return of the Jewish people home after two thousand years of exile to the land that God promised them in the Bible.”

By comparison, Evangelical tours include more of a focus on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and what God is doing among the Jewish people today from the founding of the State of Israel to the current political situation, Ben Ami said.

Catholics for Israel is an internet-based organization with a threefold mandate: to love Israel, to love the Messiah and to love the Church. Ben Ami, a Catholic Canadian who has lived in Israel for 12 years now, said his mission is to be a bridge between Catholics, Evangelicals and Jews. One of his goals is to bring out the Jewish roots of the Catholic faith.

“Evangelicals are ahead of Catholics in understanding that God still has a plan today for Israel,” Ben Ami told Travelujah, the only Christian social networking site about travel to the Holy Land. “A moderate biblical Zionism is in agreement with the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church has laid some foundations, speaking against anti-Semitism, affirming that the covenant with the Jewish people has not been revoked. But often it has not trickled down to the masses.”

To incorporate more of a focus on modern Israel, Ben Ami recommends that Catholics make sure to visit Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial to better understand modern Jewish history and places like the Temple Institute to become more familiar with biblical Judaism, which was Jesus’ religion. He said Catholics should get to know modern Israelis by attending a synagogue or Messianic congregation and by incorporating a Shabbat meal with a Jewish family or organization.

“The Lord is forming a family and he wants to unite us,” Ben Ami said, which is why his mandate includes promoting respect and unity among Jews and Christians, both Catholic and Evangelical. “There has been a gap in the (Catholic) Church and its teaching on Israel. So many Catholics miss it on Israel. They tend to be swept away by spirit of the world and take news at face value which are often anti-Israel, forgetting that God has a special purpose for this people and land.”

The website, www.israelcatholic.com, is in five languages (English, French, German, Hebrew and Italian) and includes articles about the organization’s beliefs.

Ben Ami notes that most Catholics in Israel are Arabs, indigenous to the land. He said that while the organization wants to bless them as well, Catholic tour groups are usually led by Arab tour guides and are already privy to the Palestinian side. He wants to expose them to the Jewish-Israeli side as well.

“Our focus is mostly biblical and theological. We try not to get into political side unless we see a problem and then we say something,” he said. “With all the craziness going on here, the anti-Israel bias can be troubling and irrational, and sometimes we feel that we need to be a balancing voice. All Catholics should recognize that the root of their faith is Israel – and this includes the Israel of today just as much as the Israel of the Bible.”

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

August 9, 2010August 9, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Its not just the temperatures that are sizzling in Israel. Tourism is again at an all-time high with record-breaking numbers in July.

The Ministry of Tourism announced today that 280,000 tourists visited Israel in July 2010, setting an all-time record for the month of July and amassing an increase of 11 percent over July a year ago. In the first seven months of 2010, 1.9 million tourists visited Israel, an increase of 34 percent over the same period last year and 10 percent more than 2008, the previous record-setting year for tourism in Israel.


“The consistent growth in incoming tourism over recent months, alongside the increasing satisfaction tourists feel towards the service they receive in Israel, should not be taken for granted,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. 

He said that the massive upturn in tourism is due to Israel’s investment in marketing, public relations and infrastructure development. 

“The Israeli public already understands tourism’s contribution to the Israeli economy and creating new jobs, as well as Israel’s image around the world,” Misezhnikov said.

Christian tourists to the Holy Land comprised the largest group of visitors in July. Christians accounted for 58 percent of tourists compared to 34 percent Jewish tourists. More than half of the visitors were in Israel for a return visit and stayed for an average of 10 days. 


Tourists, according to a study published today that surveyed 25,000 tourists in 2009, feel like they are getting their money’s worth from their trip to Israel. The poll showed an overall improvement and high marks for sites and services from archaeology and restaurants to cleanliness and security, to name a few.


During July Jerusalem was the most visited city (74 percent of the tourists) followed by Tel Aviv (55 percent), the Dead Sea (45 percent), Tiberias (36 percent , Nazareth (29 percent) and Eilat (17 percent).

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for 
Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


July 12, 2010July 12, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Tourism to Israel has reached an all-time high with 1.6 million tourists visiting the Holy Land during the first half of 2010, a 39 percent jump over the same period last year and 10 percent higher than in 2008, the previous record year.
A record was also set for the month of June as 259,000 tourists--an increase of 24 percent over 2009 and 8 percent over June 2008--visited the country.
Last year, Christians comprised slightly more than half of the tourists to Israel, according to tourism ministry numbers. From the Holy Sepulchre to the Garden Tomb and north to the Galilee, Christians, whether Evangelical, Catholic or Orthodox, are flooding the holy sites again this year.

Elisa Moed, chief executive officer of Travelujah (www.travelujah.com), the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land, credits the surge to Christian tourism. Moed estimates that as many as two-thirds of tourists to Israel are Christian.

Israel’s tourism minister credited the ministry’s marketing efforts for the record tourism in the face of challenging public relations.

“The increase in incoming tourism during the first half of this year should not be taken for granted,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “It is the result of massive investment in marketing activities around the world with significant budgets, especially against the background of the public diplomacy challenges that Israel is facing.”

Misezhnikov made a pitch for more government investment for the industry, which would lead to job creation and additional revenue, he said.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

July 13, 2010July 13, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv received the Travel and Leisure stamp of approval, rating respectively as the first and third top cities in all of Africa and the Middle East. Of course, this accolade is no secret to the 1.6 million tourists who visited the Holy Land during the first half of 2010, a record so far.

The prestigious travel magazine listed the rankings of cities for all parts of the world. The ranking was compiled by the magazine’s readers placing Jerusalem as the best city in the category and Tel Aviv in third place. South Africa’s Cape Town came between the two Israeli cities.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomed the announcement of Jerusalem as the World’s Best City in Africa and the Middle East. The mayor is aiming to expand tourism to 10 million visitors annually.

The rankings for the top 10 cities for Africa and the Middle East are listed at Travel and Leisure’s website:
Jerusalem 87.55       
Cape Town 87.27       
Tel Aviv 83.38       
Marrakesh, Morocco    83.04       
Cairo 78.29       
Petra, Jordan 77.56       
Dubai 73.71       
Alexandria, Egypt 73.33       
Nairobi, Kenya 72.82       
Amman, Jordan    71.34

The Israeli cities did not make it into the international top 10.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

August 2, 2010August 2, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

The Israel Museum has gotten a facelift and has reopened with double the exhibition space, longer hours and a new feel from the entrance on in.

A re-opening ceremony was held last week with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in attendance. Beginning this week, hours were extended till 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and all the way till 1 a.m. on Thursday.

“Forty-five years after the Israel Museum first opened its magnificent campus, we have completed a renewal project that allows us to serve our public as never before,” said James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “The most ambitious undertaking in our history, this project has yielded a truly transformational change across our site. We look forward to welcoming our visitors to the museum’s stunning new public spaces and galleries, planned to provide a richer and more enjoyable experience of our unparalleled collections and of our powerful Jerusalem hilltop setting.”  

The redesign took three years and cost $100 million, much of which went to renovate the Museum’s three collection wings – for archaeology, the fine arts, and Jewish art and life – and the reinstallation of its encyclopedic collections.

The renewed galleries highlight new acquisitions and long-held masterpieces across its collections. The renewed campus also features two new monumental commissions.

Netanyahu called the museum an “exceptional combination of the values of our heritage and world culture, which is essentially the bridge connecting the past with the future.”

Barkat said the redesign of the museum was in keeping with the vision of the city as it return to the center of Israeli culture and “another stage in the realization of [former mayor] Teddy Kollek’s vision.”


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

October 26, 2010October 26, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

Israeli hotels will add some 3,500 new rooms in the next few months to meet the demands of record level tourism to the Holy Land.

The nation’s existing 44,000 rooms are insufficient to meet the current demand, according to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who spoke at the OECD tourism conference held in Jerusalem.


Israel’s Tourism Ministry is allocating grants to dozens of hotel projects in order to build more rooms to match the expected 30 percent increase in tourists this year -- half a million more than in 2009. If the ministry’s goal of 5 million tourists in 2015 is met, an additional 18,000 hotel rooms, especially in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee area, would be needed.
“Steps must immediately be taken in order to prevent irreversible damage to incoming tourism – firstly transferring the authority for marketing land for tourism to the Tourism Ministry, differentiation in grants to entrepreneurs, renewing the track for attractions and updating the map of the national priority areas for tourism,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.


Misezhnikov has warned that the shortage in hotel rooms will negatively impact tourism and Israel’s image as a modern, attractive and quality tourist destination.


Fischer also called for regional cooperation with Egypt and Jordan in tourism, to strengthen the industry by integrating sites in all three countries so that tourists would visit three countries in one trip, spending a few days in each.

While an insufficient number of hotels in Israel may negatively impact Israel’s ability to effectively handle the existing demand, it is a sign that the industry is booming and highlights Israel’s evolving status as an attractive tourism location and certainly may heighten investor interest in Israel and the region.


“More and more tourists are discovering the gems in Israel and that is obvious by the demand for hotel rooms in the country,” said Elisa Moed, CEO of Travelujah. “The fact that tourism has set record levels this year shows that Israel is considered a safe and worthy destination by millions around the world.”

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


October 28, 2010October 28, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

The Dead Sea scrolls, hidden in clay jars for centuries before their 1946 discovery, will soon become available to any citizen of the world via the Internet in a cooperative effort between the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google, the web search engine giant.

“We are establishing a milestone connection between progress and the past to preserve this unique heritage for future generation,” said IAA Director Shuka Dorfman. 

Some 30,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments from 900 manuscripts will be posted on the internet by the Israel Antiquities Authority - the first time the collection has been photographed in its entirety since the 1950s.  Scholars expect interest in the ancient manuscripts to boom once they are available to the public.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouins in Qumran in the late 1940s and include both biblical and extra-biblical texts that shed light on the second temple period, Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity. Putting the scrolls online would mark the first the scrolls could be viewed in their entirety and not just as partial displays in museums.

“We are proud to take part in a project that will share the IAA’s National Treasures with the entire world,” said Google Israel R&D Director Yossi Matias.  “This project will enrich and preserve an important and meaningful part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet.  We shall continue with this historical effort to make all existing knowledge in archives and storages available to all.”

The IAA wil be using technology that enables them to photograph the scrolls in the highest possible resolution. Having high-quality images of the scrolls online will also help preserve them and make more research possible as the actual scrolls’ integrity will be unthreatened by natural elements that cause decay.
Google Israel will upload the digitized scroll images along with data to enable searches online of the scrolls in different languages. The data should be online early next year.

dead sea, dead sea scrolls, israel“We have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivalled cultural heritage treasure which belongs to all of us, so that the public with a click of the mouse will be able to freely access history in its fullest glamor,” Dorfman said. “We are proud to be embarking on a project that will provide unlimited access to one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century, crucial to Biblical studies and the history of Judaism and early Christianity.”

The IAA spent three years investigating the best imaging technologies, information systems, and preservation methods and raised money to begin the project. The IAA worked with the Weitzman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the California Institute of Technology, the Library of Congress in Washington and Eastern Piemont University.

Photos Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

October 31, 2010October 31, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Jerusalem joined a line up of cities across the world that lit up its landmarks in pink and hosted a Race for the Cure on Thursday, the first time the cause for a breast cancer cure came to Israel.

Some 5,000 Israelis - Jews, Christians and Muslims - and a host of foreigners, mostly women adorned in pink and white, joined the 5 km. route from Sacher Park to the Old City. The Old City walls were lit up in pink just like the White House and the Empire State Building for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, herself a breast cancer survivor and the cable network’s former Israel correspondent, took part in the race. Millions of women and men participated in walks around the world ranging from 5 to 10 km. organized by the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.

“Nothing like this has ever been done in Israel,” event coordinator Rena Riger said.

The walk was the culmination of a week of events in Israel aimed at raising awareness about the disease. Among the participants in the march were Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

“We are joined together by the shared fear of breast cancer, and together our action gives us the hope for a cure for this disease,” Lieberman, co-chairman of the Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative, said at the start of the walk. “Together, today, we race and together, tomorrow, we’ll find a cure for breast cancer.”

One survivor who ran the 5 km. was Mary Kendall of Jerusalem, who has been cancer free since 1994. Kendall took part in the race for the cure in Pasadena in 2009 and was happy to be able to participate in her own city.

“We all need each other. It is a nice camaraderie,” she said. “This cause represents the community of the world - there is not one religion or race that cancer attacks.”

Mary also believes Israeli scientists will be the one to find a cure for cancer. “Israel is always a leader in technology and God has given them power and wisdom,” she said

Her husband Roy, himself a melanoma survivor, said it was important for him to participate in the race with his wife in order to support the cause and raise awareness and money for research.

Earlier in the week, the Old City walls were lit up in pink to mark the launch of the national campaign.

Breast cancer is the biggest killer of women under the age of 60 in Israel and accounts for nearly 30 percent of all cancer cases in Israel about 4,000 people, organizers said. The Susan G. Komen organization began with a promise between sisters, Nancy Goodman Brinker and Susan Goodman Komen when Susan was fighting her battle with breast cancer. Nancy promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In the 30 years since, the organization has invested nearly $1.5 billion US globally in research, education, screening, treatment and awareness programs. The Municipality of Jerusalem and the Hadassah World Zionist Organization partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the week’s events.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for 
Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

November 3, 2010November 3, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

The humble little olive, a staple of Holy Land cuisine, is rich with biblical symbolism and is the subject of an annual festival going on right now in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Up until November 7, the 16th annual Olive Branch Festival, sponsored by the Israel Ministry for the Development of the Galilee and Negev, the Galilee Development Authority and the Olive Council, is celebrating the small fruit.

The olive branch is perhaps best known as the symbol of peace. But in the Bible the olive holds a rich host of uses. The oil of olives is used to anoint and to light. It is a symbol of healing. Also, the olive tree is also used as an example in the New Testament as Christians being “grafted” in to the Jewish people through Jesus. The Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem is where Jesus prayed the night before he was arrested and condemned to die.

This year’s theme is “A Tribute to the Olive in Different Cultures.” The festival is taking place in four northern Galilean communities including Cfar Veredim, Hananiya Farms, Cfar Kama and Agmon Hula. Activities planned like classes highlighting the olive’s health benefits, olive press tours, workshops, guided hikes, cycle and jeep tours mark the festival. Plus there will be gourmet meals and olive related alternative health treatments available. The festival aims to increase awareness of the health benefits of the olive.

“The annual Olive Branch festival is a unique event that attracts travelers from around the world to celebrate one of the region's most popular exports--the olive,” said Haim Gutin, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North and South America. “The festival will provide valuable insight into the lives of the residents who inhabit the olive-rich region.”

Olives and olive oil have played a role in Israel since biblical times. Olive pits as old as 6,000 years old have been found in the land, and in Deuteronomy 8:7, Israel is referred to as a land of olive, oils and honey. During the fall harvest, residents pick olives from trees in neighborhood parks.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah

November 10, 2010November 10, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Israel is on the cusp of exceeding its previous record of 3 million tourists in one year, the Ministry of Tourism has announced.

The record, set in 2008, will be broken next week, according to the Tourism Ministry. Between January and October of this year, 2.87 tourists visited the country, more than the total number for last year at 2.7 million. The previous record was 3 million in 2008. The 404,000 tourists who visited in Israel in October set a record for that month.

“The October data, together with data since the beginning of this year and even beyond, reflects the revolution that the Tourism Ministry, the tourism industry, Israel’s tourism product and Israel’s image as a tourism destination is going through in Israel and around the world,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “In order that Israel’s tourism potential is realized, tourism must be given its rightful place in the order of national priorities, as a leading social and economic force.”

The Israeli economy benefits tremendously from the tourism industry. The Tourism Ministry estimates that tourism’s contribution to the Israeli economy from January to August was $2.3 billion.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy  Land.

Tags: israel holy land tourism 

November 30, 2010November 30, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

In John 10 we see that Jesus went to Jerusalem in 29 AD to commemorate the miracle of a portion of oil that lasted for eight days, an event that today we call Hanukkah.

At the temple, Jesus in essence declared that He was the fulfillment of the Feast of Dedication (another name for the holiday) saying the Father sanctified the son of God, who is the light of the world, and sent Him into the world.

Hanukkah is a celebration of the defeat by the Maccabees of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in 168 BC. When the Jewish fighters recaptured Jerusalem, they found one portion of oil to be used for the menorah in the temple. That portion miraculously lasted for eight days even though it was enough for only one.

Now Israelis are gearing up to begin celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah, which begins on the evening of Dec. 1. Around the country hanukkiahs - a nine-branched menorah - will be lit one candle each night in many homes. The shamash, usually the tallest candle, is used to light the others.

Each city or town also displays a central hanukkiah, which is lit in a special ceremony. Two such important ones will take place on Wednesday evening:

Hebron: Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will light the first Hanukkah candle at the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Tel Aviv/Ramat Gan: Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan will light the first candle on a giant menorah at Ariel Sharon Park.

The festival of lights also extends to the world wide web where the Israel Ministry of Tourism has an interactive Hanukkah candle. Register to light a candle online each day. With each candle, the site will then reveal something new about a location in Israel.

More than any other place, the city of Modi'in is associated with Hannukah. Modi'in was home to the Maccabees. The Maccabees’ Graves, off of Route 443, are carved into rocks and covered by large boulders. Also nearby is the Maccabee trail and Kfar Hashmonaim (Hasmonean Village).

Another place to visit near Modi’in is Neot Kedumim, a biblical nature preserve, between Modi’in and Ben Gurion Airport on Route 443. There Hanukkah is celebrated by picking olives, producing oil in reconstructed ancient presses, making the clay oil lamps and much more.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, excavations offer insight into the Hasmonean era including a citadel, remnants of Maccabee houses and ritual baths. These are at the Davidson Center excavation site.

Here are some other events:

Alrov Mamilla Avenue

At the outdoor shopping plaza under the shadow of the Old City, a lights festival and lighting ceremony of the Hanukkiah will light up the boulevard nightly. In addition a lego building will be on display, dances performed and holiday songs sung.

Mini Israel

A special exhibit, Land of the Dwarves, allows children to mine for valuable rocks in a makeshift mine. The exhibit includes a Sweets Factory is a wooden machine with a conveyor belt that churns out candy; a bowling game; and dwarf characters. Dec. 4 to 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Maimon’s Bakery will offer special doughnut decorating activities for children. Sunday and Monday, Dec. 5 and 6.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

March 30, 2011March 30, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

A time of reflection and a time or preparation, Lent in the Holy Land is a solemn and serious season for its spiritual implications, but also its geographical importance in the Holy Land where one can follow the passion of Jesus throughout holy sites in Jerusalem.

With just over three weeks until Easter, Lenten preparations are well underway. And although Easter is a popular time for Christians to visit Israel, many faithful believers from around the world like to visit during Lent in order to spend their reflection and preparation in the very places where Jesus prepared for his final few weeks on earth.

Currently, the churches are full with Christians from America, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Greece and other nations attending special masses for the season.

With a line up of special masses, visitors may want to take part with the local churches during Lent. Some of the special events include a mass on April 3, at 9:30 a.m., the 4th Sunday of Lent, that will feature the entry of His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, followed by the High Mass in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene.

On April 10, the 5th Sunday of Lent, High Mass will be celebrated in the Tomb, sung by Frairs of the Holy Sepulchre.

All of the services eventually culminate in Easter, which this year is Sunday, April 24. This year, Easter falls on the same day for Orthodox and Catholics.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

September 28, 2011September 28, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

This evening ushers in the first of several consecutive Jewish—or biblical—holidays, celebrated in Israel in the autumn in highly festive fashion, beginning with Rosh HaShanah and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles.

During this time, residents of the Jewish country partake in the observations of these holy days, but what about Christians? Many evangelical Christians who live in the Holy Land, and even some who don't, make it a point to come to Israel, and specifically to Jerusalem, to celebrate these feast days as the Lord commanded in the Bible.


“We recognize that the feasts are not really the Jewish feasts—in the Bible they are called the feasts of the Lord,” Jim Schutz, a Christian who lives in Israel, told Travelujah. “They have a special significance for both Jew and Gentile.”

Christians can relate to the Feast of Tabernacles through its prophetic New Testament meaning, including the return of the Lord, Schutz said. The metaphor of living in tabernacles symbolizes believers being strangers in this world, living in temporary tabernacles awaiting another kingdom. Also, the days of repentance and Yom Kippur are symbolic to the Christian of the sacrifice of Yeshua, Schutz outlined.

“The feasts should intensify the whole message, the whole meaning of what our lives are like in Yeshua,” he said.

Schutz, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem liaison to local congregations and international speaker, offered another aspect of celebrating the biblical feasts: to encourage Christians identify with the Jewish people and to better grasp the mystery of Israel as explained in Romans 11.

“The whole point of Romans 11 is for the non-Jewish believer to understand God's heart for the Jewish people,” Schutz explained. “It is so that Gentiles can understand this mystery from the heart of God's perspective.”

Observing the feasts, though not a requirement, helps a Christian gain that perspective, he said. Schutz and his family will celebrate Rosh HaShanah on Wednesday evening with Jewish friends.

This year thousands of Christians from the nations will join Jews from around the world in “coming up to Jerusalem” during these appointed festivals. Michael Onifer, a leader of the Eagles' Wings' Israel tour, is one of them.

“Something that has been lost (among Christians) is the sacredness of space, the holiness of actual geography,” Onifer told Travelujah. “God was very specific about places and certainly about Jerusalem. He had a purpose for choosing the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. The feasts can be celebrated here in a different way than any other place in the world and were originally intended to be celebrated in Israel.”

Onifer said he makes it a point to be in Israel to observe these holy days. Some 35 Christians joined the Eagles' Wings tour, purposely scheduled to coincide with the fall feasts.

“There is the very prophetic promise of the nations in coming to worship in Jerusalem and we feel it is in our hands to begin doing that now in anticipation of what the scripture promises,” Onifer said.

Onifer maintains that the feasts are more than a religious activity given to the Jewish people, but an “invitation” for believers to understand God's heart, times and the places he has chosen.

“This is an invitation to deepen our knowledge of God and to understand how to cooperate with him and his purposes,” Onifer said.

Rosh HaShanah is known in the Bible as the Feast of Trumpets and was mandated in Leviticus 23:23-25. The following 10 days leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are known as the days of awe and are a time of repentance. A single Sabbath, known as the Sabbath of Repentance, occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (this year on Oct. 1) and is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, urging the nation to: “Return, Israel, unto the Lord your God.” Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Oct. 7. This is considered the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar and is a full fast—no food or water.

And finally, the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, mandated in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Oct. 12 and concludes at nightfall on Oct.19. During Sukkot, Jews build tents or tabernacles in which they eat their meals and sometimes even sleep.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


November 9, 2011November 9, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


Savoring a successful dinner event in Italy with four chefs – two Israeli and two Palestinian – from Notre Dame, Kevork Alemian, then director of the hotel school associated with the Catholic guesthouse in Jerusalem, stumbled upon an idea.

“I saw how the chefs united in this kitchen,” Alemian recalled. “Later, sitting on the balcony of the hotel room, overlooking the Mediterranean, an idea popped into my head.”

Alemian thought, if there are organizations uniting doctors, artists and other professionals across borders, then why not chefs? He had just watched two Jewish Israeli chefs and two Christian Palestinian chefs – not chosen for their religious or ethnic backgrounds – cook for an event sponsored by an Italian organization.

He met with the chefs and threw the idea out here – why not promote peace through an organization that bring chefs to cook together from the three religions in the Holy Land?

israel, tourism, holy land, chefs for peace

Thus, in 2001, with just four chefs, Chefs for Peace was born. Now the organization has 25 chefs from Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds, who cook together for special events, creating recipes and menus that showcase the special blend of food found only in the Holy Land.

The goal, Alemian said, is “to show to the world we can unite at one table and eat together. The bottom line is everyone has to eat.”

The chefs hail from prestigious restaurants and hotels in Israel and the Palestinian territories including Eucalyptus, Mahane Yehuda, the YMCA, Notre Dame and the David Citadel Hotel to name a few.

“Food is an amazing story. Food combines all the languages together into one language – its like love, a first language that everyone speaks,” said Amit Cohen of Luiza Catering in Abu Gosh. “To cook together will make us friends and makes us partners.”

Since its inception, the organization has been called upon to to host events in Jerusalem, around the country and for several overseas initiatives. Its most recent foray was at a Red Cross event in Norway this fall.

Planning an event is a hectic and involved task. First, the chefs who will go to the event, at least one from each religion, are chosen based on their individual schedules and availability. Then those chefs meet to create a menu oriented around Middle Eastern cuisine. Afterwards, they must contact the local sponsors to see if their ingredient list is available and what they need to bring from Jerusalem, like spices and herbs impossible to get elsewhere.

“Each chef has his own way of thinking, but when we unite in the kitchen we forget our differences and unite as one body,” Alemian said.

israel, tourism, holy land, chefs for peace

A sample menu, like the one created for the Norway event, would make one's mouth water. The Norway event included the “three-faith soup” made of red lentils, eggplant and artichoke; sayadiye (Arabic for fisherman), a white fish dish with couscous and vegetables; a rack of lamb stuffed with figs and zaatar (hyssop) served over moujadara, a famous Middle Eastern dish consisting of lentils, rice and onions; and, for dessert, kenafe (fried cheese topped with and shredded pastry, katayef, a dough pancake stuffed with walnuts and sugar or cheese and cardamon ice cream.

And so the chefs hope to promote peace one meal at a time.

“We spend all day long cooking together in the kitchen without any talking about politics,” said Johnny Goric from the Legacy Hotel in East Jerusalem. “So if we can do that for 12, 13, 14 hours a day, I'm sure we could even do more.”

Alemian said, “When we unite we forget about religion. Here are three chefs from three faiths working in the kitchen, in harmony, using the most dangerous dangerous weapon – a knife – but we don't stab each other. When we are cooking together, we use our imaginations, we create and we forget our political views.”

Members of the organization are carefully vetted for their culinary abilities and commitment to peace. At the moment, the membership is comprised of 10 Jews, 10 Christians and three Muslims.

“We are members from all the religions, all of us cooking, and we want to show people can live together, cook together, have dinners together, enjoy their life together without politics, without wars,” said Anat Lev Ari of Luiza Catering in Abu Gosh. “Politics never brings this to the world, just the real people do. So this is my way to do a little bit.”

The organization donates its earnings to charities that support the needy of all three religions represented. One of Chefs for Peace's big events coming up is an annual food festival in Norway next summer.

“When people gather together at one table they gather to break bread and to share with each other the good food and wine,” Goric said. “Over dinner, many peace agreements have happened. Over dinner, most of our disputes have vanished.”

To read more about Chefs for Peace, visit their website or look for them on Facebook.

By Nicole Jansezian

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

October 16, 2011October 16, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized



As Jews in Israel take their meals in sukkahs, temporary structures that have been erected all around the country during the Feast of Tabernacles this week, many Christians continue their own celebration of the biblical holiday with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

After a rousing message at Ein Gedi, a resort on the Dead Sea, Friday night and a restful Sabbath on Saturday, the Feast meetings returned to Jerusalem on Saturday evening and continue this week with events in additions to meetings.

Werner Oder, the son of a ranking and convicted Nazi official in Austria, who is now an Israel supporter spoke at the Feast recounting the testimony of his conversion from anti-Semitism to faith in God and love for the Jews and support for Israel.


The Feast this year includes a tour to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and a trip to Haifa to visit the home for Holocaust survivors that the ICEJ supports.

On Monday, the ICEJ is sponsoring bus tours designed to acquaint Feast pilgrims with various locations and situations around the country. One of the tours, which will be led by ICEJ spokesman David Parsons, is the flash points of Jerusalem including neighborhoods such as Ramat Shlmo, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan to Gilo and Har Homa.

We are trying to make them familiar with the issues surrounding some of these flash points they hear about in the media all the time,” Parsons said. “When (world leaders says that) new homes in Gilo constitute a settlement, that is ridiculous.”

sukkot, feast, christians


Another tour will travel along the lines of the 1967 borders, frequently mentioned by Palestinians as their desired lines for a state. The travelers will visit a community from where you can look right into Tel Aviv, thereby showing the strategic location of Jewish communities in the West Bank to Israel's defense should there be rocket attacks from there as there are from Gaza.

A third tour will take pilgrims to the Gaza border area, specifically the city of Sderot, which has takent he brunt of rocket attacks in the last decade. Feast participants will have the opportunity to deliver more bomb shelters donated by the ICEJ.

On Tuesday, a minimum of 2,500 Feast pilgrims will join in the Jerusalem march with colorful flags and outfits representing their countries. The ICEJ always comprises the largest delegation in the march.

While most of the Feast pilgrims are from Brazil, more worshippers from Asian nations have come to the Feast this year including a delegation of 150 from China, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. The Christian pilgrims hail from more than 80 countries.

The theme of the Feast this year is “Israel – A light to the nations.” Parsons explained that this phrase, mentioned twice in Isaiah, has a specific application to the person of the Messiah and a broader application to Israel's spiritual character not just its leadership in scientific and economic fields.

“Israel may be a high-tech country, but the context of the promise was about its redemptive purposes and not just technological advances,” he said.

sukkot, feast, christians


Parsons said that the global constituency of Israel-supporting Christians is starting to show and many are having an influence on their nations' voting patterns. The theme is a timely one as Israel grapples with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.

“This year’s gathering is again underlining our message that Israel is not isolated, but has millions of Christian advocates and admirers worldwide… and we all look forward to celebrating the joyous festival of Sukkot with our Jewish friends,” ICEJ Executive Director Juergen Buehler said at the opening of the ICEJ celebrations on Thursday night.


Photos courtesy of the ICEJ

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

December 12, 2011December 12, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized


A news conference on Monday illustrated – perhaps unintentionally – that there is something for everyone in Israel: In the same room a contingent of Hollywood celebrities spoke to the media about their experiences in the Holy Land while evangelical pastors from the United States answered questions about their own tour here.

Both groups were in Israel on vastly different tailor-made tours, but as guests of America's Voices in Israel, an organization that aims to bolster Israel’s image in the United States.

While the celebrities were experiencing night life, floating in the Dead Sea and enjoying raucous jeep rides in the Golan, the pastors were meeting with government officials and spiritual leaders in the country.

But despite the varying perspectives of the country, the conclusion of both groups seemed to be the same: A visit to Israel can be fun, fulfilling and surprising on many levels.

celebrity tour, israel

“For me it's pretty incredible – Israel is a leading country in high tech and yet also is unparalleled for its history,” said Greg Grunberg,omegawatchreview co-star of TV hits such as Heroes, Alias, Felicity and The Jake Effect and 26 films. “Just to see the two worlds together was amazing.”


Grunberg, who was raised Jewish, was on his first trip to Israel and wants to return with his three sons.

“I was moved by how all these religions coexist in Israel,” he con

tinued. “You think, living in America, that everyone in Israel in an orthodox Jew and yet, it's not like that.”

Melrose Place co-star Shaun Sipos, who was raised Catholic, said he was touched by the openness of Israelis and how, despite being a different religion, he was included in dancing and singing at the Western Wall on the Sabbath evening. He said many people are afraid to come to Israel because of news reports and sometimes sheer ignorance. but in reality, he said, he felt safe and had an unrivaled experience.

The stars, who were well received in Israel, have been tweeting about their trip on Twitter and Facebook. While most responses from their fans have been positive, they realized that the mention of “Israel” can evoke negative responses. The celebrity line up also included 24 co-star , of Shameless, Lost and Taken, and Austin Nichols, co-star of One Tree Hill.


Meanwhile the pastors delegation talked about spiritual experiences in the Holy Land and creating interfaith partnerships with Israeli officials.

Pastor Daniel de Leon of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, California told Travelujah that he has been and would continue exhorting his congregants that visiting Israel is an experience that would enrich their Christian walk.

“When I first came here I came with a preconceived idea of what the country should be like,” he told Travelujah. “But when you are here, all of a sudden the word comes alive. When you experience a place, it really comes together.”

Pastor Gary Simons of Highpoint Church in Dallas, the largest Evangelical congregation in the US breitlingshow , said Israel feels like home to him.

“The first time I came here I was so moved – I was walking in the footsteps of Yeshua, our Messiah,” he said. “We have a common spiritual DNA with the Jewish people. There is a sense (in being here) of being completed, fulfilled and satisfied.”

De Leon and Simons were joined by Luis Rodriguez, pastor of New Life Church of God in Arizona; Eliezer Bonilla, secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Evangelical Churches; Joseph Davis, pastor of High Point Church in Arlington, TX; and Tony Calatayud, national director of Salem Radio Espanol.


israel, tour, pastors

The goal of the trip, from America's Voices in Israel's perspective, is to allow the guests, whether pastors or celebrities, to use their respective platforms – whether pulpits to social media – to share their experiences in the land and, in doing so, engender positive feelings and, ultimately, visits to Israel by their followers.

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said the idea seems to be working.

“They have millions of followers and it helps us to get the word out,” he said.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

November 15, 2011November 15, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


With short video clips in several languages about the country and holy sites here, Israel's Tourism Ministry has built a Youtube channel designed to appeal to Christians and challenge them to visit the Holy Land.

The Religious Affairs Desk of the Tourism Ministry directed the project, designed to arouse interest in Israel tourism among Christians around the world. In the last few months thousands of hits were already registered on the channel before it was even officially launched.

The channel includes short videos and testimonials in languages including English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian and Polish among others. The videos feature short testimonials from pastors, religious leaders and tourists speaking about the spiritual experience of their visit to the Holy Land as well as information on religious sites and events.


The Tourism Ministry spent around $50,000 building the channel as part of its $15 million market effort aimed at the Christian world. Other outreach efforts include seminars and meetings with tour operators, pastors and religious leaders plus targeted advertising in the Christian media.

The channel, the Spirit of the Holy Land, is aimed at all Christians, including evangelicals. The ministry’s Catholic channel, Holyland Pilgrimage, has already registered more than 760,000 views.


“We are looking forward to the future of advertising and marketing and are using tools and the knowledge we have accumulated in order to maximize the vast tourism potential associated with Israel,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “Incoming Christian tourism, in all its denominations, represents the main target market in which the Tourism Ministry focuses its marketing effort in order to increase incoming tourism. This new website will help transmit messages and the special spiritual significance of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”

October 18, 2011October 18, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Christians in Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles joined the nation at the Jerusalem March on Tuesday in welcoming home Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was released after five years in captivity at the hands of his Palestinian kidnappers.

Thousands of Christians representing about 80 nations joined Israelis in rejoicing at his safe return. Shalit was kidnapped on June 5, 2006 by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and held him hostage, incommunicado, for years. Several of the marchers on Tuesday waved banners of support for Israel and held welcome home signs for the 25-year-old soldier.


“It feels like Christmas, like Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), like a holiday. It is the best day of our lives,” Norwegian Arvid Binttsen described to Travelujah the feeling of being in Israel on the day of Shalit's release. “Thousands of Christian Zionists have been praying for his release for five years.”

icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photo: Nicole Jansezian

Binttsen, along with another man, carried a large Norwegian flag with the message “Welcome home Gilad Shalit” in English, Norwegian and Hebrew.

The Christians, who take part in the parade every year, infuse color and joy to the march with festive costumes from their native countries and large banners expressing support for the Jewish state. Many hand out flags and candy to people along the parade route while shouting exhortations such as “we love Israel” and “hag sameah” (happy holidays).

The Chinese delegation of the parade carried flags from the communist nation and many of the w
omen wore white gowns they said represented the bride of Christ walking on the streets of Zion.


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photos: Nicole Jansezian

Many in the Brazilian contingent wrapped themselves in flags from their country and raced through the streets shouting support for Israel. The Canadian marchers carried large flags and some wore the uniforms of the Canadian Royal Mounties.

“I came to Israel to let the country know we love Israel, we love the people and we want to bless Israel,” Jeff Young, from the Toronto area, told Travelujah. “We want to let Israel know, Canada stands with you.”


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photo: Nicole Jansezian


Mabel Lau made her third trip to Israel from Singapore.

“I come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, to support and rejoice with the Jewish people, and to give them support – spiritual and moral support,” she told Travelujah.

Most of the parade's Christian contingent, described by the announcer as Christians who love Israel, are attending the annual Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

“It is good for our Feast pilgrims from around the world to be here to express our solidarity on such a momentous day, as they will also see and experience first-hand what Israel is going through as Gilad Shalit returns home,” said ICEJ Executive Director Juergen Buehler. “We share the relief and joy of the Shalit family and all Israel that Gilad has come back alive. We also share the disgust of so many that the price for his return has meant having to set ruthless murderers free. These are the paradoxes which Israel constantly lives with, and our pilgrims will no doubt return to their own nations with a deeper appreciation of Israel’s unique struggles and an even stronger commitment to standing with the Jewish state and people.”

About 6,000 Christians from more than 80 nations are attending the ICEJ Feast celebration, which will concluded Tuesday night with a farewell address by Israel’s deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photos: Nicole Jansezian


November 28, 2011November 28, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

Israel put itself on the fashion map once again with its very own Tel Aviv Fashion Week, luring leading fashion designers and journalists from around the world, reviving the show after 30 years of not hosting it in the coastal city.


For one week, the international spotlight on Israel focused on its cultural and touristic qualities as the event featured 18 shows by foreign and local designers at Tel Aviv's trendy Hatahana neighborhood by the old railway station. The festivities opened at the residence of the Italian ambassador with a cocktail reception honoring Italian designer Roberto Cavalli who showed his 2012 summer collection during Tel Aviv's Fashion Week, an encore performance having been originally staged in Milan, Tel Aviv's sister city.

"Israel is in my heart," Cavalli said at a news conference. "I'm hoping that Tel Aviv fashion week will show the world the Israel that I love. It's a beautiful city full of life with people full of life who enjoy fashion and culture just like Europeans, Americans, the Japanese. I'm happy I could support this new venture by showing in Tel Aviv."

Summer 2012 collections put together by Israeli designers like Sasson Kedem, Mira Zwillinger, Dorin Frankfurt, Galit Levy, Gideon Oberson, Shai Shalom, and Alon Livne were displayed along with student lines.

“Who knows, fashion could turn out to be a better ambassador than the country's politicians - not hard,” wrote fashion reporter Lisa Armstrong of the British newspaper, The Telegraph. “It may seem far fetched or idealistic, but when someone's enthusing about an H&M outfit, or sharing their views on what makes the perfect bag, you have the start of a common language.”

tel aviv fashion week 2010The Fashion Wire Daily reported that the collections “featured an eclectic blend of design concepts, fabrics, and color palettes, from the delicate lace and intricately beaded confections of evening and bridal gown designer Galit Levi; to 'street couture' reminiscent of 'Desperately Seeking Susan'-era Madonna by Sugar Daddy; to a bold interpretation of the flapper-meets-rocker aesthetic, coupled with graphic patterns with a decidedly surrealist influence by Yosef Peretz; to a black and gold spectacle of Middle-Eastern inspired garb by Dorit Bar Or, whose Pas Pour Toi show culminated with a perfectly timed belly dance performance set to Sarit Hadad's 'Do You Love Me.'"

Italian fashion gurus from Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the Italian Fashion Chamber, worked with Israelis in the industry to help plan Fashion Week.

In line with the ministry’s new focus on lifestyle and niche tourism, the Ministry of Tourism was a major partner in the venture and brought 60 leading international fashion and lifestyle journalists to Israel to cover fashion week and tour the country to see how what is portrayed about Israel on the news back home isn't all it seems.

“Fashion Week gives us a chance to show the other side of Israel, which we would like the world to recognize,” said Silvan Shalom, minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, at the opening reception.

From now, the industry plans to host two Tel Aviv Fashion Weeks each year – one spring/summer and the other fall/winter. The next one could be as soon as April 2012.

"I feel that fashion today... is international because all of you read the same magazines, we watch the same movies and fashion is there. From there you get an idea what to buy," Cavalli said


Photos: Avi Valdman


December 1, 2011December 1, 2011  3 comments  Uncategorized

It isn't always easy to be a Christian in Jerusalem as the minority community must navigate complicated relations and sometimes persecution to get around the Holy City.

But with understanding, friendship and advocates, Christians have managed to remain strong and confident in the Jewish state. One such friend and advocate, Daniel Rossing, was a bridge builder between the religions who brought to light the facets of Jerusalem life for Christians, Jews and Muslim.


Rossing was remembered in a recent symposium, "Jerusalem, the City of the Between," for his tireless efforts regarding interfaith relations in the Holy Land for 35 years before his death due to cancer in November 2010. A panel of Christians and Jews from around Jerusalem spoke at the symposium in his honor, hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations founded by Rossing, on the anniversary month of his death.

israel, interfaith relations, christianity

Particpants in the symposium "Jerusalem, City of the Between." Photo: Travelujah

Daniel's mission was to get to know the others,” said Armenian Archbishop Aris Shrivanian. “We need many more architects of bridges in this city to close the gaps and bring all these diverse people together. We need love and we need to know our next door neighbors.”

A task that is not always as simple as it sounds.

israel, interfaith relations, christianityThis city is a cosmopolitan one. It is the capital of the three main religions. It has many components as its inhabitants: a Jewish majority, Palestinian Arabs who are Muslim and then all the Christian denominations that are considered to be minorities,” Shrivanian noted. “The total number of Christians in the Holy Land is 160,000. With this kind of picture which is a mosaic of the holy land we can envision the relations that have emerged.”

All of the panelists, which included Shrivanian, Archbishop Aristarchos Peristaris, patriarchate of Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and Father David Neuhaus, vicariate for the Hebrew-Speaking Catholics, the Latin Patriarchate, lauded Rossing's efforts to get to know them, their communities and their beliefs and to help them get along with the other religions.



Rossing in the Armenian Quarter

Neuhaus said Rossing was always familiar with “the pain and suffering of the Jews, the pain and suffering of the Palestinians and the pain and suffering of Armenians. Daniel never forgot the suffering of all these.”

Plus, he got to know the living stones of the church – the actual congregants who make up the community. He showed that it is possible for all of us to live here together, Neuhaus said.

Rossing challenged believers to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem, an important aspect for Christians.

No city in the world has as many prayers prayed in it than Jerusalem does,” Aristarchos said.

Aristarchos said Rossing consistently brought tour groups to visit the Greek Christians, came to their help as a mediator in political matters with the Israeli government and without fail wished them happy holidays on Christian occasions.

Rossing helped Christians understand why they encounter antagonism from some religious Jews and even get spat upon by the ultra-Orthodox walking through the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. He explained to them that centuries of persecution against Jews in Europe in the name of Christ has been passed on to the generations and still is a fear among certain Jewish communities.

Rossing was an expert on the Christian communities in the Holy Land and wrote extensively on them, on interfaith relations in Israel, and on Jerusalem. Daniel held an undergraduate degree in history and Semitic studies and a Masters degree in theological studies.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


November 2, 2009November 2, 2009  0 comments  Holy Land

October 27, 2009  It was a passage in Zechariah 14 that clinched it for Susan Jones, a Christian supporter of Israel from the United Kingdom. Immediately after reading the passage Susan knew the time was right to plan her first trip to Israel.

"I was reading the book of Zechariah where it says that the nations will come up to Jerusalem after Jesus comes back," she said. "I thought, ‘I need to do this now, before Messiah comes back. I need to come up to Jerusalem on behalf of my nation and worship Jesus."

And this trip is likely to be her first of many. For many tourists in Jerusalem the Feast of Tabernacles is the time they choose to visit Israel. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Jones is among 8,000 Christian visitors from all over the world who are pouring into Jerusalem this week - and this despite a wide-reaching global financial crisis.

"I feel moved to be here," Susan told Travelujah. "It is an adventure. Fortunately we have friends who showed us around. We're discovering things out of relationship with the people we are meeting. We are looking at things through someone else's eyes."

Collin Jones, Susan's husband, said he was touched by his experience on his first morning in the country when they visited the Temple Mount.

"I felt very moved that I was going up to the temple, like it says in the Bible, ‘I was glad when they said unto me let us go up to the house of the Lord,'" he said. "I am also very preoccupied with the way things are coming together as they were prophesied in scripture and the way they've come to life."

The Bible comes to life for first-time visitors to Israel. Many are allured by the scriptures and then moved immensely by seeing the physical ground where Jesus taught, where prophecies were given and where all faiths converge.

Millions of Christians in over 175 nations, prayed for the peace of Jerusalem on Sunday, Oct. 4. Robert Stearns, founder of Eagles' Wings and co-chairman of the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, led the Jerusalem celebration of the DPPJ where approximately 2,000 believers gathered.

"It is a new day in the Christian Church," Stearns said. "There are millions of Christians declaring that they will pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We are not spectators, we are not bystanders, and we will not be silent... The sin of silence (during the Holocaust) will not be repeated... Shalom to Israel is shalom for the world."

Many Christians who joined the Day of Prayer in Jerusalem said there is nothing comparable to praying on the actual ground for which the Bible commands us to pray rather than from abroad.

"When you can hear, you can touch, taste, smell it and you are praying against the very stone right here - it's the fulfillment of all your prayers," said Canadian Bethany Campbell. "You see the people you are praying for and seeing their faces."

"His name is on this very place, so there's something special spiritually" about praying here, said Rachel Ford from Brisbane, Australia.

One veteran visitor emphasizes the importance of blessing Israel on the land of Israel. Edwell Katsande, a pastor from Botswana, makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem almost every year at great expense in order to be obedient to the biblical command to "go up to Jerusalem" during the Feast of Tabernacles.

"The most important thing when you come up to Jerusalem is to bless Israel," said Edwell, on his 13th trip to the Holy Land. "Israel has blessed the whole world. Now is our time to bless them. They gave us the Book that brought us salvation. Now we need to bless them."

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah


Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting to the land.

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