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Ho-Ho-Holy Land! Santa visits Jerusalem as cities face a second

Issa Kassissieh, a Palestinian Christian known as “Jerusalem’s Santa” brought holiday cheer to residents on Thursday, as concerns over Omicron rise.

Dressed as Santa, Kassissieh rode a camel along Jerusalem Old City walls and through Jaffa Gate, where he distributed Christmas trees provided by the municipality.

Some people remain hopeful the new variant won’t ruin another holiday season in the Holy Land.

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However, since the pandemic started, the numbers of those visiting the area has significantly reduced.

This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travellers for 14 days to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold.

“This year, it’s even worse because the skies are completely closed,” said Fleur Hassan Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem in charge of foreign affairs and tourism.

“Christmas and Chanukah have been completely devastated and we are suffering tremendously in the… leading tourism city of the State of Israel.”

Meanwhile Manger Square appeared almost empty on Friday when Bethlehem, revered as Jesus’ birthplace, kicked off Christmas celebrations amid COVID-19 restrictions and fears of the Omicron variant.

Bethlehem residents were hoping that the variant wouldn’t ruin another holiday season, but Israel has shut out foreign travellers until the end of December to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold.

Nevertheless, local leaders say the iconic town will go ahead with some celebrations.

And Santa himself was particularly optimistic: “If peace starts from the heart of the world, Jerusalem, it will be peace all around the world.

“That’s my message and I wish everybody, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Then he added: “Ho Ho Holy Land!”

Source: Jewish News

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