Tourism in Israel

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An aerial view of the Sea of Galilee
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Tel Aviv, the second-largest city in Israel

Tourism in Israel is one of Israel's major sources of income, with a record 3.6 million tourist arrivals in 2017, and 25 percent growth since 2016 and contributed NIS 20 billion to the Israeli economy making it an all-time record. [1] [2] [3] [4] Israel offers a plethora of historical and religious sites, beach resorts, archaeological tourism, heritage tourism and ecotourism. Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in the world. [5] In 2009, the two most visited sites were the Western Wall and the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; [6] the most popular paid tourist attraction is Masada. [7] The most visited city is Jerusalem and the most visited site was the Western Wall. The largest percentage of tourists come from the United States accounting for 19% of all tourists, followed by Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Italy, Poland, and Canada. [8]

Archaeological tourism

Archaeotourism or Archaeological tourism is a form of cultural tourism, which aims to promote public interest in archaeology and the conservation of historical sites.

Heritage tourism

Cultural heritage tourism is a branch of tourism oriented towards the cultural heritage of the location where tourism is occurring.

Ecotourism form of tourism

Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism. It means responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Since the 1980s, ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavor by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention. Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism.

Contents

Most-visited cities

Jerusalem

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Arab market. Old City of Jerusalem
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Western Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the most-visited city with 3.5 million tourist arrivals annually. One of the oldest cities in the world, it is the proclaimed capital [Note 1] and largest city of Israel, if the area and population of East Jerusalem are included. It is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religionsJudaism, Christianity, and Islam – and hosts many historical, archaeological, religious and other attractions. [9]

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

East Jerusalem eastern sector of Jerusalem

East Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem is the sector of Jerusalem that was occupied by Jordan during the Arab–Israeli War, as opposed to the western sector of the city, West Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, East Jerusalem has been, along with the rest of the West Bank, occupied by Israel.

The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as Abrahamism, are a group of Semitic-originated religious communities of faith that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. The Abrahamic religions are monotheistic, with the term deriving from the patriarch Abraham.

West Jerusalem was built starting in the 1800s with the expansion beyond the Old City walls, gradually expanded throughout the British Mandate, and continued after the creation of Israel in 1948. Selected tourist attractions in this area are:

West Jerusalem section of Jerusalem that remained under Israeli control after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War

West Jerusalem or Western Jerusalem refers to the section of Jerusalem that remained under Israeli control after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, whose ceasefire lines delimited the boundary with the rest of the city, which was then under Jordanian control. A number of western countries such as the United Kingdom acknowledge de facto Israeli authority, but withhold de jure recognition. Israel's claim of sovereignty over West Jerusalem is more widely accepted than its claim over East Jerusalem.

German Colony, Jerusalem human settlement in Israel

The German Colony is a neighborhood in Jerusalem, established in the second half of the 19th century by members of the German Temple Society. Today the Moshava, as it is popularly known, is an upscale neighborhood bisected by Emek Refaim Street, an avenue lined with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes.

Mea Shearim neighbourhoods of Jerusalem

Mea She'arim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Israel. It is populated by Haredi Jews, and was built by the Old Yishuv. The oldest Sephardic Haredi dynasty, Levi Kahana of Spain, has a religious cultural center in the neighborhood.

Jaffa old part of the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo

Jaffa, in Hebrew Yafo, or in Arabic Yaffa, the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, is an ancient port city in Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus, and later for its oranges.

East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War and considered by the international community as Palestinian territory held under Israeli occupation, although it was effectively unilaterally annexed in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law. It is the location of:

Palestinian territories The territories captured and occupied by Israel in 1967 that were part of the British Mandate for Palestine

Palestinian territories has been used for many years to describe the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. More recently, the official United Nations terminology has been used, occupied Palestinian territory increasingly replacing other terms since 1999. The European Union also has adopted this usage The International Court of Justice refers to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as "the Occupied Palestinian Territory" and this term is used as the legal definition by the International Court of Justice in the ruling in July 2004. The term occupied Palestinian territories is also still in common use.

Israeli occupation of the West Bank

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank began on 7 June 1967 during the Six-Day War when Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and continues to the present day. The status of the West Bank as an occupied territory has been affirmed by the International Court of Justice and, with the exception of East Jerusalem, by the Israeli Supreme Court. The official Israeli government view is that the law of occupation does not apply and it claims the territories are "disputed". Considered to be a classic example of an "intractable" conflict, the length of Israel's occupation was already regarded as exceptional after two decades and is now the longest in modern history. Israel has cited several reasons for retaining the West Bank within its ambit: a claim based on the notion of historic rights to this as a homeland as affirmed in the Balfour Declaration; security grounds, internal and external; and the deep symbolic value for Jews of the area occupied.

Jerusalem Law

The Jerusalem Law is a common name of Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel passed by the Knesset on 30 July 1980.

Armenian Quarter One of the four quarters of the Old City in Jerusalem.

The Armenian Quarter is one of the four quarters of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. Located in the southwestern corner of the Old City, it can be accessed through the Zion Gate and Jaffa Gate. It occupies an area of 0.126 km², which is 14% of the Old City's total. In 2007, it had a population of 2,424. In both criteria, it is comparable to the Jewish Quarter. The Armenian Quarter is separated from the Christian Quarter by David Street and from the Jewish Quarter by Habad Street.

Christian Quarter part of Jerusalem, in Israeli occupied territories

The Christian Quarter is one of the four quarters of the walled Old City of Jerusalem, the other three being the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. The Christian Quarter is situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate - Western Wall route in the south, bordering on the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders on the Muslim Quarter. The Christian quarter contains about 40 Christian holy places. Among them is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest places. Most of its residents are Palestinian Christians, despite their dwindling numbers.

Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is one of the four quarters of the ancient, walled Old City of Jerusalem. It covers 31 hectares of the northeastern sector of the Old City. The quarter is the largest and most populous and extends from the Lions' Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the south, to the Damascus Gate—Western Wall route in the west. The Via Dolorosa starts in the quarter.

The controversial status of East Jerusalem has been an issue when attempting to market Jerusalem to international tourists. In 2009, 2010, and again in 2015, the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled against a series of Israeli Ministry of Tourism advertising campaigns that displayed images and information about tourist sites located in East Jerusalem. The Authority wrote in its ruling that "the status of the occupied territory of the West Bank was the subject of much international dispute, and because we considered that the ad implied that the part of East Jerusalem featured in the image was part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead." Israel rejected the ruling, with the Ministry of Tourism releasing a statement that said the ad provided "basic, accurate information to a prospective UK visitor". The ruling from 2009 also included criticism about Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights being shown as part of Israel. [15] [16]

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Eilat seaside resort on the Red Sea
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Ancient Synagogue at Bar'am National Park
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Christmas Eve in Nazareth
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Shivta National Park, (World Heritage Site)
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Old City of Acre

Tel Aviv

Safed

Around the city, there are many nature reserves and archaeological sites notably the ancient synagogues.

Akko

Haifa

Tiberias

Tiberias is one of the four holy cities in Judaism, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth

Beersheba

Eilat

Ashkelon

Landmarks outside cities

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Sidonian Burial Caves at Beit Guvrin
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Byzantine Church ruins at Ashkelon National Park
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Rosh HaNikra grottoes near the Israeli-Lebanese border crossing
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Solomon pillars at the Timna Valley
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Nahal Ayun waterfalls

Masada

Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau (akin to a mesa) on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels and their families hiding there. Masada is located 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Arad. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Israel's most popular tourist attraction only second to Jerusalem.

Caesarea

Caesarea's ancient city includes Roman and Crusader ruins, such as the amphitheater and hippodrome, where live concerts of classical and popular music are frequently held, as well as the harbor from which St. Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome. It is one of Israel's biggest archaeological sites.

Beit She'an

Beit She'an (Scythopolis) was a Roman Decapolis city. One of the largest archaeological sites in the Middle East.

Beit She'arim

Beit She'arim National Park was an ancient Jewish Necropolis, it is having many tombs of Jews with many significant signs like animals and menorah, it is also includes a Jewish city and an ancient synagogue ruins.

Biblical Tells

there are around 200 biblical Tells in Israel. Tel is an archaeological site that not created by nature but by ruined human settlements. the biblical tells are from the Bronze Age and located on ancient cities that mentioned in old testament. the chosen cities are Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo and Tel Be'er Sheva which are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These tels also have some of the most ancient water systems in the world. Other biblical tells around Israel include Jerusalem, Tel Arad, Tel Gezer and Tel Lachish

Nahal Me'arot prehistoric caves

Sites of human evolution at Mount Carmel Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve is a site of human evolution at Mount Carmel in Haifa, Northern Israel. It has four caves such as Me’arat HaTanur (the Oven Cave; also known as Tabun Cave), Me’arat HaGamal (the Camel Cave), Me’arat HaNahal (the Stream Cave) and Me’arat HaGedi (the Young Goat Cave). The site was proclaimed as universal value by UNESCO in 2012.The site indicates the prehistoric man's settlements and unique evidence of a first burial.

Negev Incense Route

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev – The Negev incense route located between Jordan's Petra and Palestine's Gaza, the Nabataeans have built many fortresses, caravanserai but especially known for their four important cities of Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta, and Haluza that located on this important trade route, the Negev Incense Route is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ancient Synagogues

Israel as the birthplace of Judaism and cradle of Jewish history includes many ancient synagogues from the Second Temple Period and Byzantine-Muslim periods from Northern to Southern Israel. the synagogues are: Capernaum, Magdala, Masada, Anim, Susya, Bar'am, Gush Halav, Beit Alpha, Hukok, Nabratein, Ein Gedi, Herodium, Gamla, Umm el Kanatir, Caesarea, Hamat Tiberias and many more.

Avshalom Cave

Avshalom Cave , also known as Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is a 5,000 m2 cave on the western side of Mt.Ye'ela, in the Judean hills, in Israel, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites Some of the stalactites found in the cave are four meters long, and some have been dated as 300,000 years old. Some meet stalagmites to form stone pillars

Mount Karkom

Har Karkom ("Mountain of Saffron", also called Jabal Ideid) is a mountain in the southwest Negev desert in Israel, halfway between Petra and Kadesh Barnea. On the basis that the Israelites travelled across the Sinai peninsula towards Petra in a fairly straight line, a number of scholars have contemplated the possibility of Har Karkom being the Biblical Mount Sinai. Following this theory, Emmanuel Anati excavated at the mountain, and discovered that it was a major paleolithic cult centre, with the surrounding plateau covered with shrines, altars, stone circles, stone pillars, and over 40,000 rock engravings.

Although, on the basis of his findings, Anati advocates the identification of Har Karkom with Mount Sinai,[1][2] the peak of religious activity at the site may date to 2350–2000 BC, and the mountain appears to have been abandoned perhaps between 1950 and 1000 BC; the exodus is sometimes dated between 1600 and 1200 BC. However, no archaeological evidence has been supported by scholars to maintain a date of 1600–1200 BC. Anati instead places the Exodus, based on other archaeological evidence at around 2300 BC

Tel Ashkelon

Beit Guvrin

Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is a national park in central Israel, 13 kilometers from Kiryat Gat, encompassing the ruins of Maresha, one of the important towns of Judah during the time of the First Temple, [19] and Beit Guvrin, an important town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis. [20] There are many Muslim saints which are buried in the area, the most known of them is Prophet Muhammad's companion Tamim al-Dari In 2014 UNESCO has recognized it as a World Heritage Site.

Crusader fortresses

Israel includes many ruins of Crusader fortresses, the most known of them are Acre, Caesarea, Belvoir Fortress, Montfort Castle, Arsuf, Atlit fortress, Sepphoris, Chateau du roi and more. Arsuf also includes the nearby Sidna Ali Mosque which is still in use, the mosque includes a tomb of relative of Caliph Omar who died at the Battle of Arsuf.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee is home to many Christian and Jewish holy shrines, the Jewish holy shrines are in Tiberias (click for taking a look of the sites), and the Christian sites are outside Tiberias, some of them are archaeological sites, the sites are – Magdala, Capernaum, Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes , there are also another archaeological sites such as Kursi, Hippos, Hamat Tiberias, Tel Bet Yerah, Khirbat al-Minya and Chorazin. it is also have a collection of fauna and flora.

Arbel

Mount Arbel lies near the Sea of Galilee and is a national park with a fortress and synagogue and cliff hikinh. The fortress was built by Jewish zealots and then in the Ottoman era by Fakhreddine II on the cliffs of the mountains, the ancient synagogue was built in the 5th century and survived little bit after the Islamic period started. The nearby area is the site of Horns of Hattin famous for his Islamic victory of Saladin at the Battle of Hattin and nearby this is the shrine of prophet shuaib, Maqam al-Nabi Shu'ayb is the holiest shrine for Druze faith; the Druze are making a big Ziyarat every year in April.

Rosh Hanikra

The Rosh HaNikra grottoes are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos. A kibbutz, also named Rosh HaNikra, is located nearby. The Israeli city Nahariya is located about 10 km (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra. you must take a cable car to get into the grottoes. The Cable car is situated very close to the Lebanese border.

Makhteshim of the Negev desert

A Makhtesh is a geological landform considered unique to the Negev desert of Israel. A makhtesh has steep walls of resistant rock surrounding a deep closed valley which is usually drained by a single wadi. The valleys have limited vegetation and soil, containing a variety of different colored rocks and diverse fauna and flora. The best known and largest makhtesh is Makhtesh Ramon . Other makhteshim are Makhtesh Gadol, Makhtesh Katan and Mount Arif two small Makhteshim the Makhtesh is also a rare geological area.

Sepphoris

Sepphoris was an ancient Jewish village with synagogue, houses, baths, water tunnels, crusader fortress and more. it was also one of the site of the house of Anne and Joachim.

Timna

Nimrod Fortress

Nimrod Fortress is a big Ayyubid castle, a good example for Ayyubid fortresses from the time of the Crusader wars.

Hula Valley

Hula Lake Park , known in Hebrew as Agamon HaHula, is located in the southern part of the Hula Valley, north of the nature reserve. It was established as part of a JNF rehabilitation project. [21] In the early 1990s part of the valley was flooded again in the wake of heavy rains. It was decided to develop the surrounding area and leave the flooded area intact. The new site has become the second home for thousands of migrating birds in the autumn and spring. [22] The lake covers an area of one square kilometer, interspersed with islands that serve as protected bird nesting sites. It has become a major stopover for migrating birds flying from Europe to Africa and back, and also a major birdwatching site. In 2011, Israeli ornithologists confirmed that Lake Hula is the stopover point for tens of thousands of cranes migrating from Finland to Ethiopia every winter. In Israel, farmers set out food for them to keep them from damaging crops near the lake. [23]

Tel Dan

Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi is a special nature reserve, known for its big number of friendly Nubian ibex and rock hyrax, Waterfalls, and there are some archaeological finds on the trail. Ein Gedi is an oasis in the desert which is must see, good for relaxing and for those who want to take refuge from the hot Judean Desert, located near the Dead Sea

Keshet Cave

A big natural arch in Israel's Upper Galilee, which was a cave that was destroyed due to geological reasons over the years. Today only the arch remains and is a popular attraction for professional hiking.

Nahal Ayun

Ein Avdat

Bird watching

Israel is among the world's leading destinations for birdwatching, with birders and ornithologists heading especially for the annual migrations that funnel through Eilat and the Hula Valley. [24]

National parks and nature reserves

Israel has 67 national parks and 190 nature reserves. Some of them are located at archaeological sites. Beit Guvrin-Maresha is a large archaeological complex in the Judean Mountains. Sepphoris is an ancient Roman town with elaborate mosaics and a historic synagogue. Ein Gedi, a desert spring, is a starting point for tours to Masada and the Dead Sea.

Hiking trails

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Tabgha pool, Jesus Trail

Kibbutzim

A network of kibbutzim dot the countryside, some offering guesthouses and country lodging. They are undergoing a process of modernization and re-organization. Well known in Israel for great contributions to Israeli history, politics, the army, and Zionism. Long-term visitors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, can volunteer on Kibbutzim in exchange for food and lodging.

Museums

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Tower of David Museum

With over 200 museums, Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in the world, with millions of visitors annually. [25]

Restaurant culture

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Jerusalem mixed grill

As part of its hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants and wineries, one of the most vibrant restaurant cultures in the Mediterranean region has developed in Israel since the 1990s, catering to both tourists and citizens. [27] Professional training for Israeli chefs, hotel owners, sommeliers and vintners is of a high standard, and top hotel chefs have international education and experience. [27]

There are thousands of restaurants, casual eateries, cafés and bars in Israel, offering a wide range of choices in food and culinary styles. [28] In addition to Middle Eastern specialties, there are restaurants offering a wide selection of ethnic food, including Italian, French, Greek, Russian, Ethiopian, Balkan, Thai, Chinese, American and fusion cuisine. [27]

Places to eat out that are typically Israeli include falafel stands or kiosks, which also offer extras like French fries, fried eggplant, salads and pickles with the falafel, and the hummusia, which specializes in hummus, and offers only a limited selection of extras. The Misada Mizrahit (literally, "Eastern restaurant") is an inexpensively priced restaurant that serves a basic selection of meze salads followed by grilled meat with French fries, fried kibbeh and simple desserts, while Steakiyot are restaurants which serve a meze of salads, followed by skewered grilled meats, particularly meorav yerushalmi and kebabs [29] or sometimes by kibbeh stew like kibbeh in okra and tomato stew, beet stew.

Cafés are common in urban areas and function as meeting places both for socializing and conducting business. They commonly serve coffee, tea, fruit juice and soft drinks and almost all serve baked goods and sandwiches; many also serve light meals. Most have outdoor seating to take advantage of Israel's temperate weather, and Tel Aviv is particularly well known for its café culture. [29] Tea is also served in cafés, from plain brewed Russian-style with sugar, to tea with lemon or milk, and Middle Eastern-style with mint (nana). [30] There is also a strong coffee drinking culture in Israel and coffee is prepared in many ways, such as instant (nes), iced, latte (hafuḥ), Italian-style espresso, or Turkish coffee. [31] [32]

Wineries

Enotourism is a growing part of the tourism sector in Israel. In early 2008, it was announced that a 150-acre (0.61 km2) wine park would be created on the slopes between Zichron Ya'akov and Binyamina in order to promote tourism in the area and enotourism in Israel in general. [33]

Hot springs

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Hamat Gader hot springs

West Bank tourism

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Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron

West Bank tourism has been controlled by Israel since the territory was occupied in 1967. [34] Territory that had been off-limits to Israeli citizens was now made available for tourism, and Israel established numerous amenities in these territories and East Jerusalem to make it more appealing to Israeli and foreign tourists. [35] Despite that, Israeli citizens are generally restricted from traveling to parts of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control. [36] Today, The Palestinian Authority and Israeli tourism ministries work together on tourism in the Palestinian territories in a Joint Committee on Tourism. [37]

Golan Heights tourism

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Mount Hermon ski resort

The Golan Heights were captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and are recognized by the international community as Syrian territory held by Israel under military occupation. [42] In an act ruled null and void by the United Nations Security Council, Israel applied civilian law to the territory in 1981. [43]

For ease of touring, the Golan can be divided into the north with most of its popular destinations and the south where the administrative capital is located. Travel guides recommend renting a car or joining an organized tour. Although it is slower, some travelers chose to hitchhike throughout the region. [44] Accommodations are typically through bed and breakfasts or cabins called zimmers. [45]

The first Israeli ski resort was established in the Golan. [46] Nature trails and other attractions were established by Israel in order to further entrench its presence in the territory and to attract tourists. [35] As much of the Golan's land is not arable, many of the Israeli settlements established focused on tourism as a way of generating income. [47]

Seas and lakes

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Red Sea coral and marine fish in Eilat
Mediterranean coastal strip
Dead sea
Red Sea
Sea of Galilee

Dive tourism

Eilat is located in the Gulf of Aqaba, one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. The coral reefs along Eilat's coast remain relatively pristine and the area is recognized as one of the prime diving locations in the world. [49] About 250,000 dives are performed annually off Eilat's 11 km coastline, and diving represents 10% of the tourism income of this area. [50] In addition, given the proximity of many of these reefs to the shore, non-divers can encounter the Red Sea's reefs with relative ease. [49] Water conditions for SCUBA divers are good all year round, with water temperatures around 21–25 C°, little or no currents and clear waters with an average of 20–30 meters visibility.

Medical tourism

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Ein Bokek resort on the shore of the Dead Sea

Israel is emerging as a popular destination for medical tourists. [51] In 2006, 15,000 foreigners travelled to the country for medical procedures, bringing in $40 million of revenue. [51] The advantages of Israel for health tourism include good natural resources; stable, comfortable climate all year round; a progressive medical systems, and scenic locations which have a calming effect on patients. [52] Medical tourists choose Israel for several reasons. Some come from European nations such as Romania where certain procedures are not available. Others come to Israel, most commonly from the United States, because they can receive quality health care at a fraction of the cost it would be at home, for both surgeries and in-vitro fertilization treatments. Other medical tourists come to Israel to visit the Dead Sea, a world-famous therapeutic resort. [51] The Israel Ministry of Tourism and several professional medical services providers have set out to generate awareness of Israel's medical capabilities. [53]

Tourist demographics and economic contribution

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Caesarea

According to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, in 2009 54% of the 2.7 million visitors to Israel were Christian. Jewish tourists accounted for 39%. Revenue from tourism in 2009 totalled $3.3 billion. [54] In 2010, tourism constituted 6.4% of the country's GDP. [55] The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that real GDP growth for tourism in Israel is expected to average 5.0% per annum over the years 2010–2020. The contribution of tourism to Gross Domestic Product is expected by WTTC to rise from 6.4% (US$12.0 billion) in 2010 to 7.2% ($22.1 billion) by 2020. [55] The contribution of the industry to employment is 223,000 jobs in 2010, 7.9% of total employment. [55] Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate 6.5% of total exports (US$4.8 billion) in 2010. [55] Investment in tourism is estimated at US$2.3 billion or 7.6% of total investment in 2010. [55] The Israel Travel & Tourism economy is ranked number 51 in absolute size worldwide, of the 181 countries estimated by the WTTC. [55]

International recognition and awards

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Nahal Arugot waterfall in Ein Gedi

In 2005, Ernst & Young conducted a comprehensive research study on Israeli tourism. The report, entitled "A New Market Strategy for Israeli Tourism" was published in November 2006. The researchers felt that increasing the number of international tourists by 2011 from 1.9 million to 4–5 million was a feasible goal. The report stated that Israel's most attractive feature for international markets was its religious culture and history and the great diversity it offers within a very small country. [56] According to the researchers, Israel's different cultures and religions, its diverse landscapes, the contrasts between cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv), and combination of European, North African and Middle Eastern culture produced a "very high density of experience." The report recommended that Israel adopt appropriate marketing strategies to counter any perceived negative imagery associated with political developments.

In 2010, Israel won the title of "most outstanding stand" in all categories at the world's largest tourism fair, ITB, held in Berlin. The Israeli stand won the title of "best presenter" in the Near East and Middle East for the third time in a row. [57]

Most visited sites

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The Shrine of the Báb at the Bahá'í World Centre, in Haifa
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Syrian brown bears in Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

In 2009, the two most visited sites in Israel were the Western Wall[ neutrality is disputed ] and the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. [6] The most popular paid tourist attraction is the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. [58]

The top paid sites of 2012 were listed by Dun & Bradstreet Israel as opposed to the above sites which offer free entry. [58]

ListingSite2008 Visitors [7] 2012 Visitors [58]
1 Jerusalem Biblical Zoo 687,647752,000
2 Masada 721,915724,000
3 Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan 581,800713,000
4 Caesarea 713,648670,000
5Hermon National Park (Banias)430,531561,000
6 Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park471,000
7 Hamat Gader 500,000440,000
8 Yamit 2000 in Holon 412,533431,000
9 Coral World Underwater Observatory in Eilat 458,000423,000
10 Qumran National Park389,291377,000

Foreign visitor arrivals

Total number of tourists in Israel in 2018 was 4,113,100. This was an increase of 14% over the previous year. [59] [Note 2]

Rank
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
Country2014 [60] 2015 [60] 2016 [61] 2017 [62] 2018 [59]
Flag of the United States.svg United States622,100637,200672,100778,600897,100
Flag of France.svg France298,600300,100293,000308,700346,000
Flag of Russia.svg Russia555,900414,700284,600330,500316,100
Flag of Germany.svg Germany194,200197,800180,100218,200262,500
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom180,100197,900197,100198,500217,900
Flag of Poland.svg Poland77,20066,20054,30097,400151,900
Flag of Italy.svg Italy120,10091,20088,000107,700150,600
Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine132,400138,000164,500146,800137,800
Flag of Romania.svg Romania44,70045,10050,90078,900106,900
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China33,00047,40085,900113,600104,900
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada66,20066,70069,90080,60092,000
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands51,80049,40051,40064,00083,000
Flag of Spain.svg Spain47,30043,60046,20062,40077,700
Flag of India.svg India34,90039,30044,80058,00070,700
Flag of Brazil.svg Brazil51,90043,90035,50054,80062,500
Flag of Switzerland.svg  Switzerland39,90040,60042,90048,70057,100
Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea22,60022,60028,30039,60045,200
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Australia33,10031,90032,00039,90043,000
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium33,90033,80034,00036,30040,700
Flag of Austria.svg Austria30,80025,70024,00029,00038,700
Total international visitors3,251,0003,108,6003,069,8003,612,0004,113,100

See also

Notes

  1. Jerusalem is the capital under Israeli law. The presidential residence, government offices, supreme court and parliament (Knesset) are located there. The Palestinian Authority foresees East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state. The United Nations and most countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, taking the position that the final status of Jerusalem is pending future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv and its suburbs or suburbs of Jerusalem, such as Mevaseret Zion (see CIA Factbook and this map of Israel  (319 KB)) See Positions on Jerusalem for more information.
  2. 2017–18 statistics come from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, while previous years' stats are from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, therefore some data may be inconsistent

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