ISRAEL Journey to Holy Land

Manila Bulletin, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

ISRAEL Journey to Holy Land


Byline: RACHEL C. BARAWID

For many devout Catholics, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is the most important journey one must make in his lifetime. It is here that one can see Scriptures spring to life and Christians come to terms with their beliefs and themselves. But since the seemingly high cost of travel to Israel is a luxury some could not afford, a trip to the land of the Bible remains a dream for the majority of Filipinos.

The Embassy of Israel, recently embarked on an intensified campaign to increase tourists and pilgrims from East Asia to the world's top pilgrimage destination; and to help turn this dream to reality for many Filipinos.

A delegation from Israel led by Raphael Ben-Hur, Senior Deputy Director General of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Israeli Ambassador Yehoshua Sagi recently met with the business community and the travel industry leaders here to discuss ways to further promote business and tourism between the two countries. For starters, Filipinos are not required to secure a visa to Israel thus making it easier for them to frequent the place.

Ben-Hur paid a courtesy call to Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales and also met with leaders of various local Catholic organizations to seek their support and endorsement for their congregations to consider making this trip to Israel. Along with Israel's top tour operators, Ben-Hur likewise held a forum with officials and members of two of the largest travel groups here, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) and the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS) to form linkages and joint promotions that will bring more Filipinos to Israel.

According to Ben-Hur, the campaign aims to target some three million tourists for Israel by yearend, which is notably the same arrivals target for the Philippines this 2006. To achieve this, they are increasing pilgrimage and tourism movement from East Asia; hastening the entry of more chartered and low cost carriers to the country; and trying to create a more positive image of Israel to the world.

Ben-Hur said tourism with an annual income of $4.7 billion generated from international and domestic arrivals in 2005, accounts for 83 percent of Israel's economy.

Last year, 1.9 million tourists came to Israel. Of this number, 5,773 are Filipino tourists while the rest are from Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

Apart from the popular classic tours which are pilgrimage and historical/cultural trips , Israel also boasts of varied tourism products which visitors can experience such as health and beauty tours (Israel has some of the best spas in the world), adventure escapades, nature and desert tours.

One can follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ in Israel and retrace as well the paths taken by Abraham some 4,000 years ago, King David 3,000 years ago, Jesus 2,000 years ago and the Crusaders, 1,000 years ago. …

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