On Tuesday, Nov. 24, NRB hosted a webinar event with the Israel Ministry of Tourism and City of David Foundation to talk about travel to Israel and give a behind-the-scenes journey into an archeological discovery that will change the way that we experience Jerusalem.
Eyal Carlin, tourism commissioner to North America, Sebastián Parra, marketing director, and Yael Golan, tourism consul and director for the southern region of the U.S., represented Israel Ministry of Tourism for this event. They discussed how COVID-19 has affected travel to Israel, and what it might look like moving forward.
Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs at City of David Foundation, told viewers about an ongoing archeological discovery that is significant for the way that visitors will experience Jerusalem in just a few years.
He began by telling the story of Charles Warren, who was sent by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1867 to excavate the land of Israel and Jerusalem. Through his discoveries, he became certain that the original City of David was not in what is now known as the Old City. Instead, he insisted that the original city was on a barren ridge just below the Old City.
For over 100 years, most people disregarded Warren’s claims. But in 2004, while construction workers were repairing sewage pipes, archeologists discovered steps in the area that Warren had indicated as the original site of the City of David.
As excavations began, archeologists discovered that these were the steps leading down into the Pool of Siloam. This was the pool where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-11). Jews would perform ceremonial cleansings in this pool before ascending to the temple.
Orenstein explained that when archeologists knew where this pool was and where the Temple Mount was, they could reasonably assume that there should be a pilgrimage road leading up from the Pool of Siloam to the temple. Archaeologists began searching for it and eventually, found this road about 60 feet underground. Excavation is still underway.
“I do not believe there is another half mile anywhere in the world that has more significance to more people than the half mile stretching from the southern tip of the City of David at the Pool of Siloam up through the Pilgrimage Road in the City of David to the Temple Mount,” Orenstein said.
Orenstein discussed the significance of the fact that so many people today can know for certain that their ancestors walked on that very road.
“This is not just a piece of history,” Orenstein told viewers. “This is a continuation of a story—our story, your story, my story, a story that has been told for thousands of years, and a story that is not finished yet.”
The Pilgrimage Road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount is a half-mile uphill climb. As Jews made this journey in Jesus’ day, they would have been reciting song of ascent. This discovery will give visitors a clear understanding that these songs were not only spiritual descriptions of ascending to worship God, but also a physical description of climbing up to the Temple.
Orenstein said he prays that the Pilgrimage Road will be open to the public in the next three to four years. When it opens, visitors will have a different experience of climbing up to the Temple Mount and worshiping at the Western Wall.
Due to the pandemic, Israel Ministry of Tourism has helped host virtual experiences, such as this webinar, and plans to continue these even as the country opens back up for international travel.
Carlin said that based on current trends and communication with airlines, he hopes to see international travel to Israel open back up by Passover in March 2021.
While tourism in Israel will look different with fewer people on buses and other measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it will be helpful that so many of Israel’s tourist sites are outdoors.
If you missed the event or want to go back and watch any part of it, you can access a recording of the live webinar event here.
Israel Ministry of Tourism will be at NRB 2021 in Grapevine, Texas. Join us for opportunities to connect with them, hear from speakers like Paula Faris and Will Graham, attend workshops, and network with influential Christian communicators.
Register now to receive up to $200 off the onsite rate (prices increase after January 1, 2021). NRB members also receive an additional $250 discount off the price of a full registration or Expo Plus pass. In addition, discounts are available for international registrants and eligible students and faculty.
For questions related to registration, contact Monica Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 202-849-8444.