'Jesus Trail' in Galilee to Be Completed by Pope's Visit

The 65-kilometer trail was inspired by pilgrimage trails including the Camino de Compostela in Spain.

The Jesus Trail, a Galilee path that supposedly traces the route of Jesus, will be completed in time for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI next month, its planners said.

The 65-kilometer trail was inspired by pilgrimage trails including the Camino de Compostela in Spain. It is designed to let pilgrims and tourists experience biblical stories as Jesus did - by foot.

The project is a collaboration by Maoz Inon, a Nazareth tour operator and hostel owner, and David Landis, an outdoor adventure specialist. The route was marked by the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and sponsored by the Israel Government Tourist Corporation.

"This is the first route in Israel marked specifically for foreign visitors, and the first one focused on historical events," says Gili Grinbaum, the SPNI route marking coordinator. "The new marking improves accessibility and lessens hikers' impact on the environment."

The trail attracted several hundred tourists even before the marking was complete. Many were accompanied by a voluntary guide from Nazareth.

Hikers included travel writers, tourists, cross-border walkers, long distance runners, priests, pilgrims and pastors, who held prayers along the trail.

The Jesus Trail is also expected to boost the tourism industry in the towns and villages along the route, including Mashhad, Kfar Kana, the Kinneret area and the Arbel ridge.

Landis and Inon say they believe that as many as 5,000 people will walk the trail in 2009, and hope to see 100,000 annually by 2019. A map of the route is available online at www.jesustrail.com.