Israelis and Palestinians Aim to Promote Pilgrimages

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JERUSALEM, DEC. 5, 2004 ( Israeli and Palestinian officials signed a joint statement to announce that they will collaborate in promoting pilgrimages and tourism to the Holy Land.

In the text, signed by Gideon Ezra, Israel's minister of tourism, and Mitri Abu Aita, Palestinian minister of tourism and antiquities, they thank the Pope for his efforts in this respect.

The statement was a result of a meeting both ministers held Nov. 24. It explains "that tourism is not only a major economic force, and an important tool for nations' prosperity, but also a means of bringing peace and building bridges of confidence between peoples of the Middle East."

The ministries of tourism say they "will take effective measures to assure the safe and smooth passage of pilgrims and tourists visiting Israel and Palestinian areas, and will provide appropriate atmosphere for the private sector in both sides in terms of traffic to assure the best services for tourists and pilgrims to the Holy Land."

Both ministers appreciate "very much the address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the General Assembly of the Italian bishops, calling upon them to organize pilgrimages to the Holy Land."