Israel Welcomes Christmas Holiday Tourists

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Of the estimated 75,000 tourists expected to arrive in Israel during Christmas week, about a third are Christian pilgrims coming to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ where it all took place.

On Monday, Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will host Christian leaders at the annual reception in Jerusalem, where he'll extend holiday greetings and encourage Christians worldwide to celebrate Christmas in Israel.

Misezhnikov will also host a reception for church leaders at the Gardenia Hotel in Nazareth on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy will join him in welcoming visitors to the city where Jesus was raised.

Tourism Ministry staff will be on hand at Rachel's Crossing to welcome pilgrims visiting Bethlehem with holiday sweets and greeting cards.

Favorite sites for Christian pilgrims include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City, the Garden Tomb and the Mount of Olives, as well as Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, and the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum, both near the Sea of Galilee.

Misezhnikov said Christians make up about 60 percent of the nation's tourists.

**Originally published December 17, 2012.

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