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January 28, 2015 / 8 Shevat, 5775
 
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Hanging Out in Judea and Samaria – Tourism in the Biblical Land

Herodian ruins in Judea and Samaria

Herodian ruins in Judea and Samaria
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Coming to Judea and Samaria is fun! There is something for everyone and more and more people are discovering the diverse tourist attractions the region has to offer.

First and foremost, Judea and Samaria together make up the Biblical Heartland. Here, you can find all the places described in the Bible and discover the very roots of our Biblical heritage. The Patriarchs, King David, and the early Israelites all walked this land, and today many of these sites have been developed as educational and tourism centers. For example, Tel Shiloh is one of the places where the Tabernacle rested and served as Israel’s capital during the 13th century BCE. It was recently declared a national heritage site and received funds for further development.

The landscape is unique too. The region has retained its primal quality, and one can find ancient trees, rare flowers, quietly flowing streams, and clear springs. The scenery is relaxing, bestowing a special spirit on anyone who immerses themselves in it. In addition to these unique attractions and the heritage sites, local municipalities and private entrepreneurs have invested in developing recreational resorts and tourist attractions.

In recent years, organizations specializing in tourism in Judea and Samaria have been established. One of them, Mishkefet (lit: binoculars), has set its sights on promoting tourism from all of Israel, creating a project of national acquaintance with Judea and Samaria. Benny Cohen, Director of Mishkefet, told Tazpit that the organization is a joint venture of Judea and Samaria municipalities. The objective is to increase the number of visitors to the region, and provide them with an optimal experience.

Mishkefet invites tourists to come and discover the region and all it has to offer. It endeavors to change common misconceptions about Judea and Samaria, exposing people to the many facets of the area and helping them appreciate its uniqueness. There is a one-day tourism package tailored to groups, and in the nine months since Mishkefet started, 350 groups have visited, substantially boosting tourism to the region. Participants have responded with amazement, delight, and astonishment at what they have learned. All agree that there was much they did not know, and that their perception of the region has completely changed.

Ella Koblenz, a tour guide, editor of a nature magazine, and one of the initiators of the recent wave of tourism in Judea and Samaria, explained that in 2006 – after the Second Intifada – very few Israelis traveled on the unbeaten path, staying on main roads for security reasons. Together with other concerned individuals, she decided that it was time to get back to the land and return to traveling throughout Judea and Samaria. The number of hiking groups in Judea and Samaria has grown substantially since then, with hikers coming from all segments of society, and from across the country.

Tourism representatives from Judea and Samaria at the 18th International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) held in February this year, said that a change is definitely taking place. Many people are hesitant to come to the area because of biased preconceptions, but once they do come and discover Judea and Samaria, they fall in love with the region and completely change their opinions.

Quite simply, there is far more to Judea and Samaria than is reported in the media. The exposure the region usually receives is about conflict, rift, hardships, and suffering, but it is rapidly becoming clear that this is not the full story.

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