Violence deters Christian pilgrims

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The Independent Online

Tourists are staying away from Israel in droves this Easter, as Palestinian suicide bombs and Israeli military retaliation turned the holiest date of the Christian calendar into a wake.

Tourists are staying away from Israel in droves this Easter, as Palestinian suicide bombs and Israeli military retaliation turned the holiest date of the Christian calendar into a wake.

Jerusalem's luxury King David hotel, normally packed with guests at this time of year, is only half full. Other hotels in the city are also reporting cancellations linked to the violence.

The city was quiet yesterday as Israelis marking the Passover holiday stayed away from public places in fear of further attacks.

The traditional re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion along the via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City was scaled back, and there was no sign of the usual busloads of tourists disgorging along the route that winds its way through the Muslim quarter.

After the most disastrous Christmas for the tourist industry in living memory, this must be the worst Easter.

Tourist figures went into freefall after the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, collapsing to 65,000 visitors at the end of last year compared to a high point during the millennium celebrations of 400,000. The number of foreign visitors at Christmas was down 20 percent on December 2000.

Employment in the hotel industry has dropped from 38,000 to 18,000 in the past year.

The Foreign Office is warning British tourists to avoid travelling to the Holy Land, where the risk of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and the Palestinian-ruled territories is "very high".

Four British nationals have been killed and several injured since the start of the intifada.

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