In 2010, over two-thirds of Israel’s 3.45 million tourists were Christian, and nearly half were self-proclaimed religious pilgrims. It’s rare to find a discriminatory tourism industry these days — dollars are dollars — and fortunately for Israel, the Holy Land is holy for a lot of folks.
Enter the Gospel Trail, the Israeli Tourism Ministry’s newest attempt to monetize Christian pilgrimage. The 40-mile path, located in the Galilee and set to open in May, enables tourists to trace the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples, hitting Tabgha, where Jesus fed the multitude, the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum, the site of his purported home on the Sea of Galilee.
According to the Associated Press, the Gospel Trail “includes New Testament quotes carved into stones along the path, shaded rest areas and picnic sites.”
Of course, it’s not the only footpath in town. In 2007, Maoz Inon, a Jewish hotelier, helped start the Jesus Trail, another 40-mile jaunt that starts in Nazareth and finishes at Capernaum.
A government-sponsored route geared to Christians can also foster goodwill, which may be just as important as profitability.
“The land of God is a part of their history, too,” tourism ministry official Rafael Ben Hur told the AP. “They can learn about themselves, that they have so much in common with the Jewish people, and that it is important that the Jewish people keep this land.”