Sometimes the world of travel is filled with controversies that are somewhat ironic. The two that follow are not your prime examples of Christmas stories, but are interesting nonetheless.
First, late last month the Israeli Ministry of Tourism announced the opening of the Gospel Trail, a forty mile hiking trail that connects Nazareth with many important sites in the Galilee area of Israel that were central in the life of Jesus Christ. We were pleased to see this acknowledgement by the Ministry of the importance of Christian tourism in the Holy Lands, as about two-thirds of the country’s visitors see the sites associated with Jesus of Nazareth. However, there already is a trail that connects the important sites in the Galilee that were important locations in the life of Christ. Before the announcement, the Ministry of Tourism had backed the Jesus Trail, a commercial endeavor that created the Jesus Trail connecting sites in the Galilee important to Christians. The founders of the Jesus Trail provide tours, accommodations and have published an excellent book to hiking the Jesus Trail.
The people representing the Jesus Trail were obviously miffed at the change in direction by the the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and, in response, established an interesting website to present their point of view. The two routes are similar, as is reasonable since they connect towns and places of significance in the life of Jesus, but the trails are not identical. Why the Ministry of Tourism felt there was a need for a second trail has not yet been made clear, but two different approaches to the same objective seems somewhat counter productive and will lead to confusion for many visitors. Perhaps time will reveal the factors that led to the development of the Gospel Trail.
A second item about activities in Israel caught our attention in the news this week. We understand that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is administered by the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Those who have visited this important church will have noticed that it is in need of repair, but the administrators cannot decide which party is responsible for which repairs. Last week the frictions between the religious orders that represent the three parties boiled over and they began having a spat while cleaning the church for a Christmas Mass. The clergy began beating each other with brooms to show their discontent. Apparently the action rose to the scale of a riot and the Palestinian Authority had to be called to restore order, which took over an hour. The spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority indicated that it “…was a trivial problem that…occurs every year.” Every year? The things you learn while reading travel blogs!
Click to see our recommendations on the best places to visit in Israel.
Happy Holiday wishes to all travelers around the world.
It seems like this is the time of year when many of us start to think about taking a tour to some exotic destination next spring or summer. Perhaps it’s the cold weather and being locked inside, or the end of the year rush to get things done, but we always start dreaming about travel at this time of year and really go nuts with exploring our dreams the week after Christmas. Somewhere about this middle of this process we decide that travel is really hard work. Maybe we could find someone to do it for us, or perhaps we should take a tour. Hmmm, a tour?
For those of you considering a taking a tour might want to read our article on evaluating tour operators. If you are concerned about the financial stability of your potential tour operator (after all you will need to make a deposit to reserve your trip), you might want to see of they are a member of the United States Tour Operators Association, a trade group trying to ensure integrity in tourism. Read our article on the USTOA for more details on why booking with one of their members might be a good idea.
Early today a gunman in Liege, Belgium attacked a bus stop with hand grenades and then began shooting with an automated rifle. The attacker took his own life, ending the terror on the streets of this popular town. Three were killed and 123 wounded or injured during the attack. The attack occurred at the Place St. Lambert, a hub for the city’s public transportation and the gateway for shopping within the city (including its seasonal Christmas Market). More details can be found at Reuters.
There is as of yet, no indication that this was anything other than the action of a deranged man with a history of violence and drug problems. Nevertheless, travelers should remain alert whenever traveling and be especially aware of their surroundings when visiting crowded shopping areas during holiday seasons.