Jerusalem's Santa Claus, Issa Anis Kassissieh, filmed his annual Christmas greeting video in the Golan Heights on Wednesday, showcasing the area's holy sites and views of the Sea of Galilee.
The video, filmed in cooperation with Israel's Tourism Ministry and the Golan Economic Society's Tourism Division, will be distributed worldwide in December.
Educated in the CWH Santa Claus School in Michigan, Kassissieh has been the official Ambassador of the Holy Land Santa for the last six years and Jerusalem's Santa for the last 15 years.
Kassissieh said that the reason he chose to shoot this year's Christmas video in the Golan Heights is that it is a unique place that combines multiple water sources, orchards and vineyards, a variety of activities, breathtaking views and a collection of holy sites. He also expressed a hope to visit the heights in the winter when it is covered in snow.
The Christmas address video follows Kassissieh's journey as Santa, which began at sunrise with a kayak trip on the Jordan River with his Christmas tree and presents. Afterward, he walked among the citrus trees and almond orchards that are an important part of the Golan landscape. He then cycled with British cycler and four-time winner of the Tour de France Chris Froome, and the rest of his Israel Start-up Nation professional cycling team. Santa's journey ended at the Kursi National Park where he imparted his message of love, peace and joy.
"Promoting religious tourism to the Holy Land around the world is one of my most important missions as Tourism Minister," said Yoel Razvozov. "Religious tourism builds bridges between peoples and countries, strengthens our international and diplomatic relationships and represents an important anchor for incoming tourism.
"The Israel Tourism Ministry will continue to invest significant resources and efforts in maintaining, improving and making accessible tourist sites that are significant for all faiths for tourists from around the world."
"We are proud and pleased that the Ambassador for the Holy Land Santa chose to film his Christmas greetings video on the beautiful Golan Heights," said the manager of the Golan Economic Society's Tourism Division Limor Portal. "This stunning area, with its breathtaking views and unique site, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year from around the world.
"We are excited about the re-opening of Israel's skies and the return of incoming tourism," Portal said. "Israel is a religious and tourism destination for more than two billion Christians around the world, and we are sure that this Christmas greetings video, with its views of the Golan, will encourage them to visit and add the Golan heritage sites, promenades and produce to their Israel vacation experience."