In recent months Christian supporters of Israel have come under increasing criticism from parts of the Jewish community who suspect Christians of harboring missionary or apocalyptic motives.
Last week several thousand Christian supporters came to the Jewish state and expressed their continued support — with their feet.
Some 3,000 Christians from around the world, singing hymns and expressing concern about the growing threat of a nuclear Iran, marched through the streets of Jerusalem during the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration sponsored by the International Christian Embassy. The throng included a delegation from Papua New Guinea, center, outfitted in traditional grass skirts and body paint; Bolivian pilgrims, above, who carried a large Israeli flag that bore a dove of peace; Bolivian Christians, below, who wore Mogen Davids on their backs; Brazilians who banged drums and yelled “We love you, Israel,” and Malaysians who rolled a giant pomegranate statue along the streets.
Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham Bailia welcomed the visitors on behalf of the government.
“Our Christian pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem once more to join the Jewish people in making this traditional feast of joy,” said the Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the Christian Embassy’s executive director. “Thousands of people in spite of everything” — despite a constant worry about of terrorism and political isolation of Israel — “are coming to Israel to express their solidarity and their friendship for the people of Israel.” (See story on page 38 about the impact of the economic downturn on Evangelical Christian philanthropy in Israel.)
Israelis along the route shouted “Shalom” at the marchers and clapped to the music.
The 29th annual Christian celebration, which draws pilgrims from more than100 lands, has grown into Israel’s single largest tourism event each year, pumping about $20 million into the Israeli economy.
Claire Perry, from Mechanicsville, Va., said she felt “obligated to Israel for being able to share its salvation.