Every year, as Christmas approaches, Nichola Abdo, a Christian Arab from Haifa, puts on his Santa Claus suit, grabs a bell and visits children's hospitals and special ed schools to spread the holiday joy.
Known as the Santa of northern Israel, Abdo has been volunteering as Santa for the past 30 years. He gives out presents and sings Christmas carols in Arabic. "The most important thing for me is that I make them happy," he says. "I'm not a rich man and not very healthy, but I keep doing it."
It all started in 1986. As a young man, Abdo asked his aunt to sew a Santa suit as a joke. "I went to give out presents dressed as Santa," he says. "Then someone told me about a poor family and I gave it all to them. I've been doing it every year since."
A year later, when his first son was born, Adbo saw it as a sign. "I felt like I did something good and was rewarded for it. I got a son as a gift."
When he's not visiting schools and hospitals, Abdo hosts families from all across the country in his home during the holiday. "We call it an open house," he says, "because we can live in coexistence here. Kids come here after finishing school. Jewish, Arab, they all come to give Santa a hug and get a present."