At Christmas time the world looks to Jesus’ traditional birthplace of Bethlehem, and this year the Palestinians hope to use some of that attention to boost their quest for independence.

They’re trying to be subtle about it, with just a hint of politics in this year’s Christmas slogan, “Palestine celebrating hope,” a veiled reference to their bid this fall to win U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.

Organizers say they didn’t want to be overtly political for fear of putting off foreign pilgrims in search of a religious experience. Some 90,000 foreign visitors are expected to throng the Church of the Nativity and adjacent Manger Square in December, including 50,000 during Christmas week.

“We want to use this opportunity to convey a message to the world that we have hope of having our own independent state and we need the international support for that,” said Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes. “Since Christmas is a religious occasion, we can’t use direct political slogans.”

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