Over the weekend the Grand Rapids Press published an article by Mary Radigan that examines one booming trend in the travel industry, “Spiritual journeys take off in travel industry.”
“The market for religious travel has grown into an $18 billion industry worldwide,” writes Radigan. “In the past decade, it has expanded into cruise lines, bus trips, escorted tours, and conventions and meetings.”
This growing interest in religiously-based travel underscores the tensions behind the recent controversy over an archaeological dig near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As GetReligion notes, the area is both the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site for Muslims.
Here’s a picture from my own trip to Israel in 1999 during a summer semester working at Bethsaida archaeological excavations under the direction of Dr. John Greene. You can see the Wailing Wall in the foreground with the Dome of the Rock behind it. To the lower right hand side, you can see the guarded walkway to the Temple Mount. To the right of this walkway is the area where the archaeological dig is taking place. The perspective of the picture is facing roughly southeast, and the al-Aqsa Mosque is on the west side of the mount.