Israel Celebrates 3 Million Visitors

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Israel is celebrating a new tourism record. For the first time ever, more than 3 million people have visited the Promised Land this year.

One Brazilian pastor received a hero's welcome to Israel. He became the 3,000,001 Holy Land visitor.

"We admire Israel and we love Israel and we almost feel that it's a must to come here because of our faith," the pastor said. "It's something we look forward to all of our lives."

Israel has set this record despite a worldwide economic crisis and fear that the country is unsafe.

"For us it shows that people trust coming to Israel," said Rafi Ben-Hur, deputy director general of the ministry of tourism. "That Israel is safe."

Evangelical Christians like the Brazilian pastor represent a substantial number of those visiting the Mideast country. In fact, Christians make up more than 60 percent of all the tourists coming to Israel.

"Here they feel something different," Ben-Hur said. "They feel something very important on their chest of being in the land of God -- of walking in the footsteps of Jesus -- feeling the importance of the Holy Land."

"It doesn't matter if it's evangelical people from U.S.A. or Brazil or it's the Catholic people from Poland and Switzerland and Spain," said Stas Misezhnikov, Israel's tourism minister.

Looking ahead to 2011, Israel anticipates breaking even more tourism records.

"First of all, I think we have the most fascinating place on earth," said Elyezer Shkedy, president and chief executive officer of EL AL Israel Airlines. "From my point of view, 3 million tourists is only a small number that can enjoy the state of Israel and the land of Israel."

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