Bethlehem’s Burgeoning Jesus Industry Gets a $400,000 Shot in the Arm From the U.S. Government December 25, 2013

Bethlehem’s Burgeoning Jesus Industry Gets a $400,000 Shot in the Arm From the U.S. Government

I doubt that this government sponsorship of Christianity would fly here at home, in the United States. ACLU or FFRF attorneys would bring down a legal sledgehammer on it right quick.

Abroad? That’s another matter.

Christmas is the high season in Bethlehem. The traditional birthplace of Christ is the biggest tourist attraction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Nearly 2 million people visit Bethlehem each year — a number that has risen steadily over the past several years. …

This holiday season, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) donated almost $400,000 to bolster the Christmas celebrations on Manger Square. A tree, entertainment and a small Christmas market are staples, but this year saw more music, more booths and more days of activities.

Isn’t this a textbook confluence of state and church — the kind that the U.S. government is constitutionally obligated to refrain from?

Also, if the 20,000-strong population of Bethlehem draws two million visitors a year, and most of those tourists have fat wallets, I can’t say I understand why the residents don’t thank their lucky stars for that annual windfall, and why they expect American taxpayers to donate a small fortune in order to help promote the cult of Jesus.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JaniceInToronto

    Why? Because Jesus of course.
    The question is almost silly…

  • starskeptic

    Why should it matter that this is outside the U.S.? It seems a clear violation of separation to me.

  • Yoav

    The US government has an interest in boasting economic activity in areas controled by the Palestinian authority and this is probably one of the only way they can fund anything over there without it automatically becoming some fake controversy on fix noise.

  • Dan Weeks

    So when Republicans complain about wasteful spending, this apparently doesn’t qualify.

    Of course, is this aid simply given to the religious theocracy, but still legitimate sovereign nation of Israel, to use as they please? If so, then meh.

  • Artor

    Why would a celebration in Bethlehem involve a tree? That’s a head-scratcher for me. I’d think the nativity scene would be more appropriate. If they’re going to include a tree there, of all places, why not a Festivus pole too?

  • A3Kr0n

    I like the guy who made a Christmas tree from empty tear gas grenades that were shot at the Palestinians. He wanted to remind the Americans about the $3 billion in military aid the US gives Israel every year.

  • guest

    Meanwhile, some people have died of starvation or of drinking filthy water, which this aid money could have prevented if it was better spent.

  • guest

    It’s for tourists that expect trees.

  • Jachra

    Israeli-occupied West Bank. KEY PHRASE.

  • Artor

    Huh. If I was vacationing in the Levant, the last thing I’d expect to see is a Nordic Yule tree. Well, maybe not the last, but it would be pretty far down the list.

  • B Dallmann

    I played the good child today and went to church with my parents. The pastor (it’s a Lutheran church) spoke about how he met the only Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem, and bemoaned the persecution of Christians there.

    Seems like that’s not a huge problem if USAID can spend $400,000 on Christmas decorations.

  • B Dallmann

    There are many people less informed that you, unfortunately.

  • mdoc

    I missed this blog. In fact, the tourists spend very little in Bethlehem, which is a problem. They go with an Israeli tour guide. Get off the bus. Look around. Get back on and leave.

  • $925105

    So we have to cut food stamp funding for hungry kids in America so we can spoil rich tourists in Israel so they can learn more about Jesus. Tell me again how Christians are morally superior?

  • this is sick

  • Jeff Simons

    $30 Billion. So it’s far worse.

  • SluttyMary

    Terrorist occupied.

  • John

    It is still government funding but it is carefully maneuvered through USAID. Thus not counting as a violation.

    I still think it should be though.