As millions of Britons prepared to depart to foreign climes for their annual summer holidays, one of the UK’s leading Sunday newspapers, The Observer, offered its readers a prestigious travel opportunity – a week’s tour of the “Holy Land.” Priced at between £1,099 ($1,800) and £1,399 ($2,300) – depending on the season, it included visits to Christian and Crusader sites in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Acre and Bethlehem as well as a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee and a swim in the Dead Sea.
The Observer’s decision to feature an expensive trip to the West Bank, at a time of intense international political and diplomatic wrangling over the future of Palestine, demonstrates, yet again, the enduring attraction of the territory’s unique historical, cultural and archaeological heritage.
It doesn’t just include Christians.
As the centre of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Palestine has something to offer everyone, including the tens of thousands of Israelis and non-Israeli Jews who visit each year. Khouloud Daibe, a Palestinian architect who currently serves as the Authority’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, is also setting up new museums, tours and promotions focussing on the monuments, shrines and natural wonders that appeal to visitors from the Arab and Islamic countries to the east. In the longer-term, Palestine hopes to become an gateway to the Arab world, as well as, at present, a final destination for visitors coming from North America, Europe and Asia via Tel Aviv or the few open crossings through Jordan and Egypt.