Israel Invites Chilean Miners for Christmas

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov invited the 33 rescued Chilean miners and their spouses to embark on a "spiritual journey" this Christmas in Israel.

Misezhnikov extended the all expenses paid invitation - roundtrip airfare, hotel with full board and sightseeing tours to the Christian holy sites - in an official letter.

"Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us," Misezhnikov wrote.

"It would be a great honor for us to welcome you as our guests in the Holy Land," he wrote.

"This December, Christians around the world - and here in the land of Jesus - will celebrate Christmas. During that time, we welcome tens of thousands of pilgrims and would be pleased to offer you this uplifting and extraordinary experience as our guests," the tourism minister wrote.

Last week, much of the world watched as the miners - trapped deep underground for 68 days - emerged one by one from the specially designed capsule that brought them to the surface. As they greeted their wives and families, they thanked God for preserving their lives.

Israel has seen a record number of tourists in 2010. Christian pilgrims make up a third of the total.

Last spring, Misezhnikov told CBN News he sees Christians as Israel's "partners" because the Holy Land also belongs to them.

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