Israel - Tourism, travel, and recreation

Principal tourist attractions are the many holy and historic places which include sites sacred to three religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In particular, the Old City of Jerusalem contains the Western ("Wailing") Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; nearby are the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane. Another holy place is Bethlehem, the birthplace of both King David and Jesus. Also of great interest are the ruins of Jericho, the world's oldest city; the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea; and the rock fortress of Masada, on the edge of the Dead Sea Valley and the Judean Desert. Tourists are also drawn to Israel's rich variety of natural scenery, ranging from hills and greenery in the north to rugged deserts in the south, and including the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on Earth. The most popular team sports are football (soccer) and basketball; popular recreations include swimming, sailing, and fishing.

A valid passport is required for tourists, with visas issued at time of entry. In 2000, 2,416,756 tourists visited Israel, over 50% from European countries. There were over 45,594 rooms in hotels and other establishments with 106,782 beds and a 60% occupancy rate. Tourist receipts totaled $3.8 billion. The Tourist Industry Development Corporation fosters tourism by granting loans for hotel expansion and improvement.

According to 2002 US Department of State estimates, the average daily cost of staying in Tel Aviv was $314. Estimated daily expenses in Jerusalem were $312 per day.

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