Israel: Galilee villages launch campaign to attract
Posted on 02 August, 2007
This summer Christ has risen higher than ever before on the agendas
of four Arab villages in the Galilee, after the council heads of Fassuta,
Mi'ilya, Jesh and Ilabun recently decided to launch a new initiative aimed
at attracting Christian pilgrims.
Despite their relative proximity to Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of his
life, the four villages are not directly adjacent to the city, nor are they
situated nearby any religious site.
Yoav Stern, Haaretz, July 30, 2007
This geographical disadvantage prompted the local leaders to band together
and cooperate with the Tourism Ministry and the Ministry for the Development
of the Negev and the Galilee, who are promoting the new plan to include peripheral
towns in the horn of plenty the Christian tourists represent.
"We will interest the tourists in the region's Christian character, which
is part of regional history but also characterizes the present. We have to
highlight the local traditions in the villages of the area," says Yishay
Sorek, director of the regional development division of the Ministry for
the Development of the Negev and the Galilee.
Currently, Nazareth attracts virtually all Christian tourists who visit the
region, as well as tourists from other parts of Israel. The predominately
Christian villages surrounding the city, however, appeal to only a handful
As a quick tour of the four villages revealed last week, it will take a lot
of time and effort until they will be swamped with tourists. They do, however,
posses a great deal of potential.
Fassuta, for example, which is situated just south of the border with Lebanon
on the north-western slopes of Mount Meron, just celebrated the 100th anniversary
of its local church, named after the Christian saint Mar Elias. Decorating
the central town square is a large statue of Mar Elias, and Vatican City
flags adorn the church itself.
"The village elders believe Elias is our guardian, protecting us from harm.
In the war last year, most Katyusha missiles landed nearby the village, and
the ones that hit the village itself did not cause any injuries," a local
Preparations for Fassuta's re-branding as a Christian tourist destination
are already underway. The people of Fassuta, along with the tourism experts
and the residents of the other three villages involved in the project, will
have to come up with a way to bring out the special and unique features of
"Turkey named a mountain route after St. Paul to attract Christian tourists.
If Turkey can do that and it works, then we can certainly find a way to brand
Christian sites in the Galilee," Sorek says.
Sorek is referring to the fact that St. Paul the Apostle, one of the most
notable early Christian missionaries, has a very strong link with another
partner-village, Jesh, on the north-eastern slopes of Mount Meron. Paul's
parents are said to have lived there. As for Mi'ilya, 20 kilometers north-east
of Acre, it boasts the Frankish fortress of Castellum Regis, "the king's