Walking in the Messiah's Footsteps: Israel Opens Jesus Trail

Jesus Trail Takes Pilgrims from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee.

ByABC News
May 1, 2009, 12:47 PM

JERUSALEM, May 1, 2009 -- The Jesus Trail is 40 miles long and starts in Jesus' home town of Nazareth.

Recently completed, its route winds through the towns and villages of the Galilee region in northern Israel. This is the place where Jesus and his disciples established their ministry. It is a landscape steeped in the history of the New Testament and the gospels.

The free trail is the brainchild of local Israeli tour operator Maoz Inon, who runs a guesthouse in Nazareth in partnership with American David Landis, who has a track record in adventure tourism. They hope it will attract Christian pilgrims from around the world and help boost the local economy.

It took several years to plan in coordination with Israeli tourist authorities and has opened in time for the arrival of the pope and an expected spike in Christian tourism.

For Maoz, the Jesus Trail is not just about ticking off the famous bible locations.

"We believe by hiking and walking the trail, you will be able to meet and interact with the multicultural nature of the people that are living in the Galilee today," he said.

He is encouraging local businesses along the route to work with him and provide services to the tourists walking the trail. They range from operators of local guesthouses to people like Abu Youssef, who we met just outside Nazareth offering us delicious herbal tea in his olive grove.

Our first stop on the trail was the ancient Roman city of Sephoris. It was the main local town in Jesus' day, as well as the headquarters of the local Roman government. Jesus would have been a regular visitor and some now think he may even have worked in the town as a carpenter.

Then we came to Cana, the location for Jesus' first miracle, the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana mentioned in John's gospel.

The trail winds through the narrow streets and alleys marked by special yellow and white markings.

Further on we came to the Horns of Hittin, a famous topographical landmark. This time no biblical reference, but the very spot where, in 1187, the famous Muslim military leader Salahaddin defeated the Crusaders, signalling a bloody end to the Second Crusade.