Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Santa Clause in Jerusalem's Old City, December 20, 2018.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry is ready to welcome en estimated 165,000 faithful who are expected to arrive in Israel for the Christmas holiday.

Starting at 2 PM on Christmas Eve, December 24, through 2:00 PM on Christmas Day, the Tourism Ministry will offer free roundtrip shuttle transportation, helping pilgrims who travel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will depart from the bus stop near the Carta Parking lot in Jerusalem—opposite Jaffa Gate, near Mamilla Boulevard, and will continue via Rachel’s Crossing to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – and back again. There may be changes to the schedule due to demand and traffic.

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Tourism Minister Yariv Levin will host the traditional pre-Christmas reception for Church leaders and members of the Christian communities in Israel. Expected to attend are ambassadors, heads of Christian organizations in Israel, pilgrimage organizers and other dignitaries from different communities.

Schedule for events in Nazareth

Tuesday December 24

2:30 PM – Traditional parade through the main street of Nazareth to the Basilica of the Annunciation

6:00 to 6:30 PM – Fireworks display to open the festivities, courtesy of the Tourism Ministry

Wednesday December 25

10:00 AM – Main mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, 55% of the approximately 4.5 million tourist entries (those staying at least one night) in 2019 were Christians. Of these, 43% were Catholic, 31% Protestants, 24% Orthodox. Among the Protestants, 83% were Evangelicals (who comprise 28% of all Christian tourists and 13% of all tourists) while 15% were from the mainstream and the Afro-American church. Among the Orthodox, 74% belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, and 26% to the Greek Orthodox and others.

24% of all visitors to Israel defined the purpose of their visit as pilgrimage. 84% of all Christian visitors go to Jerusalem, with about 65% visiting Tel Aviv-Jaffa as well. The most visited sites by Christians (by descending order) are the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Via Dolorosa, and Mount Olives.

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