With Easter coming up on Sunday, millions of people around the world turn their attention to the Holy Land--the area comprising much of Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan that is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.
According to an article a few years ago in The Wall Street Journal, the Holy Land is "enjoying an unlikely wave of religion-based tourism even as the Middle East's wars and terrorist attacks scare away most leisure visitors." In 2014, the number of tourists visiting Israel tripled over the previous decade--from about 1.1 million to 3.3 million visitors, with Christians representing 56% of the total.
Yousef Abudayyeh is a San Diego-based entrepreneur who has started up and owned a variety of businesses over the years, including flower shops, a car dealership, restaurants, and delis. However, his most recent business--Traveling to Jerusalem--is particularly close to Yousef's heart because it allows him to show people the Palestine he grew up in while providing economic opportunities for local businesses.
While scores of companies offer tours to the Holy Land, Traveling to Jerusalem takes its customers into holy sites in the Palestinian areas that most other tour companies skip. This was the genesis of Yousef's idea for a business, and what separates it from the competition. Says Yousef, "I wanted to give the tourists who go see the holy sites a better choice. It would be sad, for example, if you went all the way to the Middle East to visit the Christian holy sites and you didn't visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Or if you didn't go to Jerusalem and walk the 14 stations of the cross that Jesus walked in his last days."
Yousef's company has an intimate working knowledge of the Palestinian areas of the Holy Land--the people who live there, the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best guides--and it is able to provide its customers with a unique and uplifting experience that can't be matched by long-established tour companies.
Traveling to Jerusalem offers three kinds of tours: religious, cultural, and hiking. The company's 8-day religious Holy Land tour, for example, begins in Bethlehem, and over the days that follow, the tour moves to Hebron, Jerusalem, Jericho, and the Town of Nazareth.Along the way, the tour takes in remarkable visits to the Church of the Nativity, Abraham and Sara's tomb, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sodom and Gomorrah, and much more.
In addition to visiting these sites, customers have the opportunity to talk with the people who live there, eat their food, and experience their culture, which is one of the things that makes Yousef's company unique.
Ultimately, its Yousef's approach to entrepreneurship that has made this company, and the others he has founded, successful. When asked the secret of his success, Yousef replies, "I think the recipe is very simple. You have to be truthful, and you have to know your product. And don't skimp. Whatever you say you're going to do, do it to the fullest and don't look back."