Current Jewish pilgrimage tourism: Modes and models of development

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Whether in its traditional religious form or its modern secular form, pilgrimage is currently experiencing resurgence the world over. This study analyzes the traits of current Jewish pilgrims to holy sites in Israel and explores the phenomenon of Jewish pilgrimage tourism in the country. To this end, it employs a variety of methodologies, including a questionnaire completed by 703 pilgrims at seven different pilgrimage sites in Israel; interviews with the pilgrims and staff of organized tours to these sites; observations in situ; and participant observation. The purpose of this paper is to conduct a market analysis based on geographic, demographic, and psychographic characteristics of visitors to Jewish holy sites in Israel. Such a survey is a basis for understanding the motivations and preferences of the visitors' specific needs and the first stage 'pre-planning' that is necessary for every future plan of a tourism site. It was found that the sites attract an extremely diverse visitor population, ranging from very religious orthodox pilgrims, to 'traditional'pilgrim-tourists, to secular tourists, who can also be understood as alternative tourists. Thus, the traits of present-day pilgrims can be represented on a scale ranging from 'secular'to 'spiritual,' or from 'tourist' to 'pilgrim,' which enables us to propose a model of site development, and to grade the sites on a scale ranging from spontaneous, undeveloped sites to formal, highly developed sites. The study also indicates that secular visits of tourists are what trigger site movement toward formal recognition and development, transforming them from pure pilgrimage sites to religious-tourist sites and drawing greater attention to the relationship between pilgrimage and tourism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Holy sites
  • Israel
  • Judaism
  • Pilgrimage
  • Religious tourism
  • Stages of development
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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