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Tourists! This Year in Jerusalem

June 12, 2021
Nicopolis - the ruins of the Byzantine church complex
Emmaus / Nicopolis - the ruins of the Byzantine church complex believed to be where Christ broke bread with the two disciples at the end of the Emmaus trail.

Israel tourism suffered a critical decline as a direct impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Consider the contrast.

In 2018 Jerusalem visitor numbers jumped to an increase of 37.5% according to a survey by the Ministry of Tourism. The annual contribution to the national economy was estimated to be 8 billion shekels ($3,157,716 AUD). Then came Covid 19. Air flights stopped, businesses folded, restaurants, bars, cafes, souvenir shops closed. Tourist employees were laid off, taxi drivers, employees at famous historic and religious landmarks suffered. No one escaped. At the end of 2020, the government stepped in to subsidise businesses whose prospects were critical.

The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ (Romans 12:21) It looks to me we are about to witness that verse in action. During the time the tourist door was closed Israel worked to add new attractions for the eager visitor. The feast for Christians is very exciting.

The Emmaus Trail Hike

Let us begin at Abu Gosh. It is an Arab village named Kiryat Yearim in the Bible. It is said to be the place where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden for 20 years to keep it away from the Israelites. It is Abu Gosh where an exciting hike to Ayalon Canada Park begins. Along this path Jesus walked with two disciples. Luke 24: 13-35 explains. The resurrected Lord walked with these two men but they did not recognise Him. It is said this happened the same day of the Lord’s resurrection. One of the disciples was Cleopas or Apheus who commentators say was the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of the Lord. They walked to Emmaus. The Matthew Henry Commentary said they talked together about all that had happened.

This was an enlightening and informative conversation. Luke tells us Jesus explained to them ‘what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.’ (Verse 27) Finally in verse 31 ‘their eyes were opened and they recognised Him.’

Visitors to Israel are now invited to hike the Emmaus Trail. You begin near the village of Abu Gosh and proceed about 18 kilometres. Henri Gourinard, a lecturer on historical geography. published a 50 page illustrated guide book to the Emmaus trail. There are four legs to the hike, he explains. The observant will take in history from the Roman and Byzantine eras but surprise, surprise there is also ‘the Elvis Diner’ and yes it contains memorabilia of Elvis Presley. (I particularly enjoyed the milkshakes!)

the incredible ancient history and religious significance of the Holy Land are enough to make any trip one to remember.

During the last leg, through Park Ayalon’s Spring Valley (Emek HaMayanot) you will be captivated by the Roman Bathhouse, an ancient winepress, a square water reservoir dating back to the Second Temple.

Emmaus was the site where Judah the Maccabee (of Hannukah fame) defeated the Syrian Seleucid army in 166BCE.

Henri Gourinard in his Guide Book said, “It’s a nice way to end a pilgrimage and to meditate on before leaving the country.”

Bein Harem Tourist Services in a press release stated the obvious. “Israel doesn’t need to try very hard to impress visitors with its attractions; the incredible ancient history and the religious significance of the Holy Land are enough to make any trip one to remember.”

Hebron Visitor Centre and Heritage Museum

Tourists might overlook a visit to the West Bank and Bein Harem advise it is wise to travel in an official group or with an Israeli tour guide. Hebron is deeply treasured by the Jews. It is mentioned 87 times in the Bible and is the world’s oldest Jewish city. The Machpelah in Hebron is the final resting place of the Biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah and Leah—the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. 

The latest addition to the city is a 4D movie called “Touching Eternity” that takes visitors on a virtual journey through the history of Hebron. Touching Eternity transports you through time to when Abraham purchased the land in Hebron; the Ottoman conquest and the return to the city in 1967. The state-of-the-art movie theatre and Hebron History Museum are housed in the Hebron Visitors’ Center at Beit Hadassah. 

Friends of Zion Museum

The Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem takes you on a 3D virtual tour through history focusing on the everlasting bond between Zionist Jews and Christians. The advanced technology used to bring history to life is accompanied by surround sound, an original musical score, lighting effects, wooden sculptured figures, map projections and murals. 

As you go through the exhibit the presentation pauses at significant moments when champions of the State of Israel emerged. Animated images of Biblical figures, military leaders and even academics and ground-breaking business people tell the story of how different faiths worked together to make the State of Israel a reality. 

Highlights on this journey through time include the moment God promised Abraham a land for his people. Touch the interactive mural in the Hall of Visionaries to see people like Churchill, Queen Victoria and Woodrow Wilson who contributed to the realization of the Zionist dream.

The dark years of WWII are highlighted and the international leaders who consequently championed the State of Israel.

Beersheba

Australia and New Zealand have deep connection with the Biblical city Beersheba. On October 31, 1917 the Australian Light Horse made their historic charge against a firmly entrenched enemy. In every way, a David and Goliath scenario.

The Hebrew be’er means well. Abraham built a well in the Negev Desert (Gen 21:51). Hence Beersheba was born. When his well was seized Abraham appealed to the king who settled the dispute with a treaty.

Until recently, Abraham’s well stood in Old Beersheba under a simple shelter. Since 2013, however, the well has been part of a massive modern production called Be’er Avraham. It begins in a large structure symbolically designed to remind visitors of a tent, where a guide explains Biblical passages relating to Abraham. Then, with the latest that technology has to offer, you join him on his desert journey.

As the doorway to Israel begins to open the time is on hand for an enriching visit to the Holy Land. 

For Christian visitors ‘the rocks cry out’, as promised.

Ron Ross

Ron Ross worked as a newsman in Jerusalem, broadcasting Middle East reports internationally. He is the Middle East correspondent for Vision Christian Radio and a popular speaker.

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