Israel approves 'Gospel Trail' cable car connecting historic sites to enhance Christian tourism

(Wikimedia Commons/Bantosh~commonswiki)An aerial view of the traditional site of Transfiguration of Jesus Christ in Mount Tabor.

The Israeli government has approved the construction of a Gospel Trail tourist cable car that will connect the historic sites in Upper Nazareth and the lower slopes of Mount Tabor in an effort to attract Christian tourists.

According to Jewish News Service, the project is a collaboration between Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Aryeh Deri, and the municipality of Upper Nazareth.

The Ministry of Tourism will be allocating NIS 600,000 (US$168,000), while the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee will be spending up to NIS 400,000 (US$112,000) for engineering planning purposes.

The initiative is aiming to attract millions of tourists and religious pilgrims from around the world, apart from Israeli visitors.

"The cable car will enrich the tourist experience and help bring the large numbers of incoming tourists who visit Nazareth to also visit Upper Nazareth, thereby contributing to the local economy," Levin stated.

The tourism minister further noted that the cable car will offer "passengers great vantage points over the unique sites and sights in the area, enriching the tourist experience and making the area more accessible."

The area has numerous sites that attract the interest of Christian tourists. The Incoming Tourism Survey of the Tourism Ministry has indicated that more than a million tourists, many of whom are pilgrims, visit Nazareth, the Lower Galilee and the Sea of Galilee. Around 90,000 tourists stay in Nazareth for an average of three days, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

"The Galilee in general and the Nazareth ridge in particular is an area in which rich history and ancient traditions are intertwined. The cable car is good news for the people of the Galilee and the area's many visitors – tourists from Israel and overseas. The ministry will continue to work to facilitate such important tourism projects," said Deri, according to Breaking Israel News.

A survey by Mertens Hoffman Management Consultants indicated that 54 percent of the 2.9 million tourists that visited Israel in 2016 were Christians. Thirty-eight percent of the Christian visitors were Catholics, 28 percent were Protestant and another 28 percent were Eastern Orthodox.

Only 24 percent of the tourists who visited Israel last year were Jews. Fifteen percent said they had no religious affiliation and three percent identified themselves as Muslims.

As many as 47 percent of the tourists said they had already visited Israel at least once before, and 80 percent said they would visit the country again.

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