The Middle East really hasn’t been a tourist haven of bliss lately given the wars and terroristic bombing sprees, but the times they are a ‘changin’, as noted in the USA Today.

After eight bleak years, Jesus’ birthplace finally has a Christmas season to cheer about. Hotels are booked solid through January, Manger Square is bustling with tourists, and Israeli and Palestinian forces are working to make things go smoothly.

happy_birthday_jesusApparently, there is a big tourism business – and Christian emigration – blossoming in Bethlehem… again. Nice to know the Christian pilgrims want to check out the “Disciples in the Hood.” So, obviously the local business owners are experiencing a little heaven on earth:

Bethlehem’s 19 hotels are fully booked through January, said Mayor Victor Batarseh. He said he expects 30,000 visitors on Christmas Eve alone, compared with 22,000 last year, with about 5,000 more expected during Orthodox rites in January.

To what can we attribute the recent buzz in Baby Jesus in the Holy Land? Brilliant marketing slogans like, “Wal-Mart has nothing on the lights we have for the holidays,” “Santa Claus Blows: Visit the real North Pole” or if the West Bank tourism board felt a little spunky, “Bethlehem: We are the bomb!” Too much?

Just imagine all the tchotchkeys they can sell from the Nativity story?!  ‘Going Kosher for the Holidays’ cookbooks, ‘I found Jesus’ t-shirts, birthday cake sales, quench your thirst with ‘Jesus Juice’ from the Jordan river…and all those “babe in a manger” onesies. Nice.

“Calm and an increase in tourism will create more job opportunities and encourage families to stay in the city,” said Batarseh, who is Christian. Officials say 40% of the town’s 32,000 residents are Christian, down from 90% in the 1950s. The rest are Muslim.

Yeah, the economy and um, Christian persecution, will have an affect on the housing market, eh?  But one thing I didn’t find in the story is does anyone know what Jesus would put on his “Me-mas tree”. Wait a while, it’ll take.

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