Jewish pilgrimage tourism

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Noga Collins-Kreiner

Current Jewish pilgrimage tourism: Modes and models of development
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 thisend, 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 ofvisitors 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, tosecular 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 alsoindicates 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. Keywords: pilgrimage; tourism; religious tourism; holy sites; stages of development; Judaism; Israel


Pilgrimage,one of the religious and cultural phenomena best known to human society, is an important feature of the world's major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Pilgrimage may be defined as "a journey resulting from religious causes, externally to a holy site, and internally for spiritual purposes and internal understanding" (Barber, 1993, p. 1) or as a journey undertaken bya person in search of holiness, truth, and the sacred (Vukonić, 1996).
Noga Collins-Kreiner, PhD, University of Haifa, Israel; E-mail:


PRELIMINARY COMMUNICATION Vol. 58 No 3/ 2010/ 259-270

N. Collins-Kreiner UDC: 338.48-6:2(569.4)


Whether traditional and religious or modern and secular, pilgrimage is experiencing resurgence the world over, aslongstanding shrines still serve as magnets for those in search of spiritual fulfilment (Digance, 2003). Superficial relationships between tourists and pilgrims have been acknowledged for several decades by medievalists and historians of tourism (Smith, 1992) and have also been the subject of more recent research (Timothy & Olsen, 2006). This article explores the phenomenon of modern-day Jewishpilgrimage tourism to the shrines and graves of tsaddikim (saintly and pious religious figures in the Jewish tradition) in Israel. Current Jewish pilgrimage to the shrines located at the graves of saintly personages is a subject that has barely been researched. Moreover, very little attention has been paid thus far to the tourist components of this growing phenomenon, which account for millions ofvisits each year and has had a marked effect on society and culture in the country. The article begins with a review of the pilgrimage tourism literature, including the niche occupied by Jewish pilgrimage. This is followed by a detailed background of the sites explored and the methodology employed, as well as a discussion of the traits of both the visitors and the sites themselves, based on the...