Israel focuses on culture and pilgrimages to restart

These days tourism in Israel mainly springs from “solidarity,” emotions and affections. Institutions are nonetheless aiming for an upcoming restart of other modes of visitation as well, relying in this regard on the full restoration of religious pilgrimages. “Our arms are open,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz during the conference “Israel’s History and Archaeology. News on Pilgrimage Routes,” which took place at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
The event included a review of several excavations: from the one in the Ophel area in Jerusalem to the one involving Qumran, the site in the Negev where the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found. “Archaeology is one of our excellences. Talking about it in such a meeting, at a time like ours, is cause for consolation,” Schutz argued.
In the past few months, the diplomat has often pointed to the way the hierarchy and the Catholic world are referring to October 7 and its aftermath. Recalling the theme, he expressed the hope that the journey leading up to the 60th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration, the document that revolutionized the Catholic Church’s approach to Jews and Judaism, “will be an opportunity to reflect on this relationship, its ups and downs, what has been done and what remains to be done.”
Pilgrimage “is the oldest form of tourism to Israel,” Kalanit Goren, the director of the Israeli National Tourism Office, said in her report. Recently, her office released some numbers for 2023. The year seemed close to matching the record number of entries recorded in 2019, some 4.5 million tourists, but because of the October pogrom it stopped at 3 million, instead. The top 10 ten countries of arrival were the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Poland, Canada and Spain. As for the reason of their visit, 37% of 2023 tourists indicated “tours and sightseeing,” 26% indicated “leisure and creative activities,” 25% indicated “family and friends,” 21% indicated “pilgrimage,” 11% indicated “business,” and 5% did not specify a reason.