When visiting the Holy Land, followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have an opportunity to see firsthand the sites of some of the most significant events of their religious tradition. Every year, approximately 1.5 million religious tourists make a trip of their lifetime to experience Bethlehem. However, though many of them invest a lot of time and money into these pilgrimages, a lot of them return without a full understanding of the true Palestinian situation.


Throughout its history, Palestine and its people have dealt with struggles of occupation. Undaunted, the people have continued to remain true to their cultural roots as native Palestinians of the Holy Land. Unfortunately, however, millions of pilgrims who pass through the Holy Land year after year fail to fully appreciate and understand it. Gaining a full appreciation and understanding of the Holy Land largely includes learning about the daily lives of these "living stones" who provide a human link to the past.


The Holy Land offers much more than an opportunity to photograph ancient buildings or walk along ancient roads. As significant as the various sites of the Holy Land may be, it has always been the people that make the land as precious as it is. This is especially true for those living in Palestine, whose economy suffers from political restrictions and the emigration of its people. Not only can visitors contribute financially to local businesses, positively impacting the Holy Land's economy, but they can also join in spiritual solidarity with the people and raise international awareness of the current political reality, sharing stories of what they witnessed and encouraging others to visit as well.


During HCEF's 15th International Conference in Washington D.C., the dynamics of religious tourism in the Holy Land will be explored. This workshop will explain the meaning and importance of religious tourism to the Holy Land as well as the business environment that promotes or distracts from pilgrimages to the Holy Land.


Those in attendance will have the chance to hear several knowledgeable and esteemed speakers discuss the topic, including: Sami Abu-Dayyeh, President, Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HILTOA), CEO, Near East Tourist Agency (NET), Owner, Ambassador and Ritz Hotels, Jerusalem; Sami Khoury, Tourism Consultant, "Visit Palestine" Co-founder & General Manager, Alternative Business Solutions; Fr. Michael McDonagh, International Advisor to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and Bishop Richard H. Graham, Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). To learn more about these and other speakers, please visit our Speakers' Bios page. Be sure to come see and hear them speak on Saturday, October 19th in Washington D.C.


Registration is now open for HCEF's 15th International Conference at the Washington Marriott in Washington D.C. on October 18-19! If you haven't yet, we invite you to register today!


To learn more about HCEF's 15th International Conference & Awards Banquet, and to register, please click one of these helpful conference links below.