JERUSALEM (JTA) — Nearly 3.5 million tourists visited Israel during 2010, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the country’s Tourism Ministry.
This represents the highest number of visitors to Israel in one year. More than two-thirds of the tourists were Christian, and 23 percent were Jewish.
About one-fifth of the tourists came from the United States. Visitors also came in large numbers from Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
Some 3 million tourists came to Israel in 2008, the previous record-setting year.
In a news conference Monday, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said that Israel could reach the 4 million mark for tourists by next year. He said his ministry would focus on new markets with potential for growth, including China, India and Poland.
"The year 2010 is a milestone for the Israeli tourism industry, a year in which both the government and the economy in general understood that tourism is an economic force of the first degree, one of the most important in the economy and one that should be related to accordingly," Misezhnikov said.
The most-visited site was the Western Wall, which 77 percent of all tourists visited, followed by Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter with 73 percent, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with 61 percent and the Via Dolorosa with 60 percent.