Israel Woos Tourists With Virgin Mary Sites
A new tourism pilgrimage traces the footsteps of the Virgin Mary
In 2010, 69% of Israel's almost 3.5 million tourists were Christians -mostly Catholic pilgrims. Now Israeli Tourism Ministry officials have released a pilgrimage itinerary that traces the footsteps of the Virgin Mary.
"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 Noaz Bar-Nir, director-general of the Ministry of Tourism.
The itinerary includes sites where the faithful believe the Virgin Mary lived and traveled, including her birthplace near Nazareth in northern Israel, as well as Mary's Spring, and the Tomb of the Virgin near Jerusalem.
Israel has long provided pilgrimages for Christians to travel in the footsteps of Jesus, from the sites of his crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem, to the Sea of Galilee, where the faithful believed he walked on water. Working with Palestinians, Israel also facilitates visits to the West Bank village of Bethlehem, purported to be Jesus’ birthplace.
"The Christian world looks to the Holy Land as an important reference point for their faith and life. 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. For us Christians, the Holy Land is the physical connection with the life of Jesus. But we cannot talk about the life of Jesus without talking about his mother, the Holy Virgin." stated Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Roman Catholic Church's custodian of the Holy Land.