Move over, mistletoe, and deck the halls with boughs of olive branches.
The Israel Ministry of Tourism is inviting travellers to join Santa in exploring one of its tourist regions in a new video.
In collaboration with the Tourism Department of the Golan Economic Association, the video features Santa – not pulled by reindeer in a snow-covered North Pole, and sliding down chimneys – but paddling along the Jordan River, checking his Naughty vs. Nice list in a sunny grove of trees, and cycling through the countryside with a Tour de France winner.
The video showcases the scenery of Golan Heights including the Jordan River, Kursi National Park and views of the Sea of Galilee as Santa journeys through the region, calling out “Merry Christmas” and spreading joy during the holidays.
Starring as Santa in the video is prominent Jerusalem basketball icon, Issa Annis Kassissieh, who is also the official ambassador of the Holy Land Santa.
It may not be as much of a stretch for the athlete as you may think; Kassissieh is a graduate of the CWH Santa Claus School in Michigan, (yes, that’s a ‘thing’), and has been the “Jerusalem Santa” for 15 years.
Although Israel is the cradle of three of the world’s major religions, and served as the backdrop for the Christian biblical story of Christmas, the country is eager to promote its cosmopolitan appeal beyond faith travel to its holy and historic sites, and this video gives viewers some alternate ways to think of Israel as a travel destination – even during the holidays.
Ho, ho, shalom!