South Florida churchgoers are heading to the Holy Land in droves, just as hurricane season begins in their region and the best part of summer gets underway in Israel.
Christian tourism to Israel in general is on the rise, according to Elisa Moed, CEO of Travelujah, an Israel-based travel agency geared towards Christian tourism. "Christian tourism is absolutely on fire here," she told the Florida Sun Sentinel, adding that she expects 2010 to set a record.
A number of churches in South Florida, comprising hundreds of tourists, have just completed tours to various Christian sites in the Jewish State, and others are planning their trips for this year and next.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, travelers are taking advantage of the calm climate: the month of May marked the sixth consecutive record-breaker for tourism, with 309,000 visitors. The figure is a 33 percent jump over the data of May 2009, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Tourism to Israel has become even more attractive with access to sites in the Palestinian Authority, such as Bethlehem and Jericho, recently eased through a joint initiative between Israel and the PA.
The IDF announced last week that it has decided to allow tour guides to bring tourists to the ancient town of Jericho for the first time in nearly a decade. The decision followed the successful launch of a similar pilot project last month in Bethlehem.
"This is the first time since 2000 that Israeli tour guides have been able to enter the city of Jericho," the Israeli government said in a statement. "This planned policy is intended to contribute to the Palestinian and Israeli economy and promote tourism."