Thursday, December 23, 2010

Israel Can't Live With Christmas, Can't Live Without It

Although founded as a Jewish state, Israel has an Arab Christian minority.

Not surprising, considering the present borders of Israel encompass places Jesus is said to have lived, such as Nazareth. This has been a cash cow for the Israeli tourism industry, who hosts tourists all year round, especially during Christmastime.
Israel is preparing for the arrival of 90,000 tourists this Christmas by promoting access to holy sites and ensuring safety for all.
Nearly 2.4 million Christian tourists are expected to visit Israel by the year's end, according to the ministry of tourism. One-third of the Christian tourists are pilgrims visiting holy sites in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Nazareth, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa and the Mount of Olives are located in Israel. Bethlehem is in the West Bank.
On one hand, Israeli tolerance for Christianity can be seen by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas greetings yesterday to Israeli and global Christians alike.

On the other hand, the holiday cheer didn't extend to a Nazareth suburb this year.
"The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is provocative," Mayor Shimon Gapso told AFP. 
"Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not happen -- not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor," he said of the northern Israeli town.
"Nazareth is right next door and they can do what they want there," he said.
His decision angered the town's Arab and Christian minority, who accused him of racism.
And the holy culture wars rage on. Happy Festivus.

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