A new Trans-Israel tourist trail which will bring visitors through Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria will allow hikers to “walk through the verses of the Bible,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he welcomed the proposal.
Netanyahu lauded the initiative’s touristic and historical implications, saying, “There is nothing that connects one more to love of the homeland than walking through the verses of the Bible, the history of the Second Temple period and the establishment of the State of Israel.”
“This is an outstanding enterprise,” he stated, adding that he himself hoped to hike the route. “We have beautiful countryside and a rich history. I will try to walk through parts of it.”
Indeed, the Bible commands that Jews walk the land through its length and breadth in order to confirm God’s covenant.
“Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you.” Genesis 13:17
Unlike Israel’s existing national trail, Shvil Yisrael, which avoids controversial areas such as Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, “The actual route of the trail, which will be determined by the inter-ministerial committee, will include Jerusalem and those relevant areas not currently within the scope of the Israel Trail,” Lydia Weitzman, Foreign Press Adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, told Breaking Israel News.
The trail will incorporate Jerusalem’s Biblical tourist attractions, including the Old City (home to the Western Wall and the last remnants of the Second Jewish Temple), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (where according to the four canonical Gospels, Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected), Via Delarosa (believed to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to crucifixion), and the Mount of Olives (the burial place of notable rabbinical figures and prophets Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi, which has served as a Jewish burial ground for over 3,000 years).
The trail will also allow visitors to journey through Biblical Israel’s Judea and Samaria, home to the Valley of Elah (where the epic battle between David and Goliath took place), Shechem (where Abraham was told to inherit the land), Shiloh (where the tabernacle stood for almost 400 years) Beth-El (the place of Jacob’s dreams), and Hebron (the burial site of the matriarchs and patriarchs).
In addition to adding the possibility to hike between Israel’s holy sites, the trail will diversify and expand the touring options in the periphery of Israel, leveraging the North’s verdant landscapes and water sources and the South’s desolate and beautiful desert scenes.
According to Weitzman, this is the first time the government, in cooperation with the relevant bodies, will develop a strategic plan for a Trans-Israel Trail, including “its route and infrastructure requirements from lighting and signage to food and overnight accommodation, in order to market the trail around the world as a tourism product.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin’s proposal recommended a NIS 10 million budget allocated for the trail, which will span Israel’s length and breadth.
Upon the proposal’s approval, Minister Levin said that the decision, in the context of all-time record-breaking figures in incoming tourism, will further add to the existing tourist attractions and will benefit visitors and tourists in Israel.
The average expenditure of a tourist in Israel is about $1,500, and the new trail should make significant economic contributions to these areas by increasing and distributing this tourism expenditure to the periphery, the proposal explained.
Within 120 days of the proposal’s approval, a team headed by Director General Amir Halevi of the Ministry of Tourism, along with the Ministry for Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the JNF-KKL, and the Nature and Parks Authority, will submit to the government its recommendations for the strategic plan for the development of the trail.
The recommendations will include the proposed route, intersections with the Israel Bicycle Trail, and plans to adapt the supporting infrastructure and hospitality along the trail.