Between 2016 and 2019 visitor numbers increased from 235,000 to 450,000 annually. This remarkable growth presented us with unprecedented opportunities to proclaim the gospel message to people from around the world. With these opportunities came significant challenges: logistical and financial.
In 2020 the global pandemic had a massive impact on the ministry. Overseas visitors to Israel came to a halt. It is unknown when visitors will be able to return and in what numbers, but it is unlikely there will be any significant change in 2021.
The Garden Tomb is unique; there is no comparable site in the Holy Land. We know visitors will return in ever increasing numbers once we are through the pandemic and it is anticipated that we will host as many as 650,000 visitors a year by 2026.
AN URGENT NEED REQUIRING YOUR HELP
Although Covid19 has stopped the tourists coming, it has presented to us a window of opportunity that may never happen again.
We are therefore committed to seizing this moment, while the Garden is closed, to undertake significant improvements throughout the Garden in 2021.
We want to be ready to welcome people back to this unique place, where the Gospel of the Risen Christ is proclaimed with power in the very place where these events may have happened.
Our Vision is to:
Increase annual visitor capacity to 650,000
Provide safe access and mobility throughout the Garden
Enhance the quality of the visitor experience in three areas
Empower the Gospel presentation through the visual and audible experience
The Redevelopment Areas
1. Skull Hill Plaza
A newly designed seating and standing area
The plaza will provide unrestricted views of Skull Hill, possibly the biblical Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.
John 19: 16-19 “So they took Jesus and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Tour groups and individual visitors can pause to view Skull Hill and reflect on the biblical narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion, which according to John’s account occurred near the city.
John 19: 20 “Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek”.
The new raised covered seating area provides visitors with a place to pause and reflect on the biblical accounts of the crucifixion with its message of salvation.
Isaiah 53: 5-6 “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Having visited Skull Hill the tour continues through the garden, where various places of archaeological interest can been seen, including a wine press that dates to the Roman period.
The wine press points to the probability that there were gardens here at the time of Jesus.
John 19: 41-42 “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there”.
2. The Tomb Area
A newly created, gently sloping pathway with appropriate landscaping will lead to the ancient empty ‘rolling stone tomb’, possibly the very place of Jesus’ burial and resurrection.
The Gospels tell us the tomb in which Jesus body was laid belonged to a man called Joseph of Arimathea; and so the tour of the Garden Tomb concludes with a visit to the empty tomb.
Matt 28: 1-6 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay”.
3. Upgrading the Devotional Meeting Areas
After visiting the tomb most tour groups spend time in worship and prayer in one of the many meeting areas within the garden.
A visit to the Garden Tomb can be a powerful experience and for many people is a life changing event. The garden and designated meeting areas allow time and space for all our visitors to reflect on the Gospel message of salvation – reconciliation between God and mankind – accomplished through the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
The Unique Window of Opportunity
Time is at a premium for us to do this work. Between now and December 2021 we need to make the major landscape changes. The balance of the work can be done working around the visitors during the first three months of 2022.
To complete all these improvements, we need to raise $1.25 million by April 2022.
Contact us with your questions, or to request more information.