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!
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