Twenty-four of the 33 Chilean coal miners who were rescued from the bowels of the earth in October arrived in Israel Wednesday along with family members for a week-long visit as guests of the Tourism Ministry.
In Jerusalem, they will tour the Kotel, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Knesset, Yad Vashem, museums, and several churches. Additional stops on their tour include the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, Masada, Nazareth, Tiberias, Tel Aviv and Yafo (Jaffa).
The miners politely turned down an offer to visit the Kotel tunnels, and explained that they have difficulty spending time in closed spaces, following their ordeal in the San José copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapó, Chile.
On August 5, 2010, a cave-in in the mine left the men trapped 700 meters (2,300 ft) below ground for 69 days until their rescue.Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said that the visit was a private one and was not coordinated between governments. He added that the miners' tour to Israel is generating positive coverage of Israel in world media.