JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel is prepared to welcome approximately 165,000 visitors to the Holy Land during the Christmas holiday season.
The Tourism Ministry will help Christians celebrate the miracle of Christ's birth by hosting its annual pre-Christmas reception for Israeli Christians and church leaders. Ambassadors, leaders of Christian organizations in Israel, and other dignitaries are expected to attend the celebration.
Christian pilgrims will also get the chance to travel to Bethlehem from Jerusalem using a free shuttle service offered by the tourism ministry on Christmas eve and Christmas Day.
Christmas is already in full swing in Israel. Hundreds of people recently packed Bethlehem for the annual Christmas tree lighting celebration.
The event took place in front of the Church of the Nativity, the spot many Christians believe is the place where Jesus was born.
According to the ministry, more than half (55%) of all tourists who visited Israel in 2019 were Christian.
They expect 165,000 Christians to arrive in Israel in December 2019 and January 2020.
This includes Catholics (43%), Protestants (31%) and Orthodox (24%) Christians. Of the Protestant tourists, 83% were evangelical.
The most popular sites visited by Christians were the Western Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, and the Mount of Olives.
Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that Israel will have hosted 4.7 million visitors in 2019, shattering previous records.