Tourism in Israel is one of Israel’s major sources of income, with a record 3.6 million tourist arrivals in 2017, yielding a 25 percent growth since 2016 and contributed NIS 20 billion to the Israeli economy making it a record. In terms of employment, the tourism industry in Israel is quite large, employing over 200,000 people (which is about 6% of Israel’s workforce). The most visited city in Israel is Jerusalem, which receives approximately 3.4 million tourists annually. Holding profound significance in all three of the world’s major religions, Jerusalem contains many historical, archaeological, and religiously significant attractions that all individuals can enjoy. Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in the world and has over 200 museums, which attract millions of visitors annually. Tel Aviv is Israel’s second most visited city, and in 2010 was ranked as one of National Geographic’s top 10 best beach cities.  Known for its intense party atmosphere and reputation as the Middle East’s “city that never sleeps,” Tel Aviv is a popular destination for young people looking to enjoy a night out. Citing high price competition and security concerns, the World Economic Forum ranked Israel #61 out of 141 countries in their 2017 tourism competitiveness index. Israel was ranked as #72 in 2015.

The largest percentage of tourists come from the United States accounting for 19% of all tourists, followed by Russia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In 2009, the two most visited sites were the Western Wall and the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; while the most popular paid tourist attraction is Masada. The most visited city is Jerusalem and the most visited site was the Western Wall. Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and hosts a myriad of historical, archaeological, religious and sundry other attractions.

Israel also has many outdoor activities for tourists to enjoy. Perhaps they may not be as extreme or exhilarating as an Everest Base Camp Trek, but there are still excellent outdoor attractions for tourists. Israel is among the world’s leading destinations for birdwatching, with birders and ornithologists heading especially for the annual migrations that funnel through Eilat and the Hula Valley. Israel has 67 national parks and 190 nature reserves. Some of them are located at archaeological sites. Beit Guvrin-Maresha is a large archaeological complex in the Judean Mountains. Tzippori is an ancient Roman town with elaborate mosaics and a historic synagogue. Ein Gedi, a desert spring, is a starting point for tours to Masada and the Dead Sea. There is also a wide assortment of hiking trails available for tourists to enjoy such as the Israel National Trail, the Jerusalem Trail, the Jesus Trail, the Golan Trail, the Valley of Springs Trail, the Sea to Sea Trail, among others. A network of kibbutzim dot the countryside, some offering guesthouses, and country lodging. They are undergoing a process of modernization and re-organization. Well known in Israel for great contributions to Israeli history, politics, the army, and Zionism. Long-term visitors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, can volunteer on Kibbutzim in exchange for food and lodging.

In conclusion, tourism in Israel is growing and growing on an annual basis. If you would like to visit Israel, be sure to use a budget for yourself or your household to ensure you have enough saved for your vacation, for your day to day expenses, and retirement.