New York, NY- September 22, 2008: Israel has inaugurated the new ‘Pilgrim’s Route,’ a trail enabling travelers to hike to its Christian holy places. Along the route leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, tourists can visit the site that recalls the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan, the Qumran caves and the point in the Jordan River believed to be where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

The Good Samaritan site, located just off the highway leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, is home to a Byzantine church built approximately 1,700 years ago. The mosaic floor of the church was recently reconstructed by archaeologists. In addition, the baptismal site, located near Jericho, is considered the third most important site for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, and also holds significance in the Jewish tradition as the place where the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River when they entered Canaan.

“The new ‘Pilgrim’s Route’ will add some additional inspiration for Christian visitors to Israel,” says Arie Sommer, Tourism Commissioner for Israel, North and South America. “With tourism to Israel at an all-time high in 2008, we can anticipate an even greater influx of visitors hoping to follow this historic trail.”

The first stage of the baptismal site’s development includes setting up shaded areas and making it wheelchair-accessible, and will be completed this month.

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