Haaretz has a story on the new “Pilgrim’s Route,” select portions of which are below.
Some three million tourists are expected to visit Israel next year. And when they arrive, they will discover a new “Pilgrim’s Route” leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Along the way, they will be able to visit the site where the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan took place; the Qumran caves; and the site where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
It is not clear what is meant by “Pilgrim’s Route.” Ideally, there will be a walking path along the ancient Roman road. More likely, there will be signs installed at each place designating it as part of the “Pilgrim’s Route.”
The Good Samaritan site is just off the highway leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. During the Byzantine era, a church was built at that spot to commemorate the New Testament’s tale of a man attacked by robbers while en route from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is refused help by all the passersby except the Good Samaritan. Archaeologists recently reconstructed the entire mosaic floor of the church.
It is unlikely that this site is anything more than a traditional place to remember the story. If there was an inn, it was probably in Jericho, not in the middle of the inhospitable wilderness. Furthermore, this may have been a story that Jesus created to teach a point and not a historical event (Luke 10:25-37).
Concerning the baptismal site:
According to Shai Weiner, the Tourism Ministry’s deputy director general for economics, planning and infrastructure, the first stage of the site’s development, which includes setting up shaded areas and making it wheelchair accessible, will be finished in about two months. The ministry has thus far invested some NIS 3.5 million in the site, and the Defense Ministry will invest about another NIS 1 million to improve the access road.
In addition to shaded areas, they need to get some of those amusement-park-type misters.
Weiner said that other Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel typically attract between 400,000 and 600,000 visitors a year, and he expects the same at this site. The ministry noted that the site would also jump start other businesses in the area, such as restaurants and souvenir shops.
Note to investors: buy stock in these new shops and sell your holdings in Yardenit.
Oni Amiel, CEO of Amiel Tours, which specializes in Christian pilgrims, said it is about time Israel began competing with the Jordanian site. “There’s an enormous flow of tourists there,” he said. “It’s important that the site on our side also be respectable – and above all, that there be water in that dried-up Jordan.”
So you get a flow of tourists where there once was a flow of water. Not such a good trade-off.
The full story is here.
HT: Joe Lauer