JERUSALEM (JWN)—More than 9,000 evangelical Christians from throughout the world have arrived in Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
This is the thirty-second year the pilgrims have come for festival events and touring the country. Some 6,000 hail from more than 80 countries; including Brazil, China, Finland, Gabon, and the US.
A separate mission of another 3,000 Christians has come to Israel from a dozen countries brought by the Manmin Central Church of South Korea.
The pilgrims gathered in Haifa on Saturday to pray for peace and the safe return of Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity tomorrow.
“This year’s gathering is again underlining our message that Israel is not isolated, but has millions of Christian advocates and admirers worldwide… and we all look forward to celebrating the joyous festival of Succot with our Jewish friends,” said International Christian Embassy Jerusalem executive director Dr. Juergen Buehler at the opening of celebrations on Thursday night in Jerusalem.
The festival of Succot (Tabernacles) is popular among evangelicals because of its biblical significance. Beyond its commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, it has an appeal due to “the universalism inherent in the holiday,” according to ICEJ spokesman David Parsons.
“In King Solomon’s Temple, 70 sacrifices were made during Succot on behalf of the 70 nations of the world and gentiles were welcomed to come to the Temple to pray to God. It says at the end of the book of Zecharia that in the Messianic age, all the nations will go to Jerusalem to worship here and we see ourselves as forerunners of that movement,” he said.
On Saturday pilgrims from Brazil took part in a mass baptism ceremony in the waters of the Jordan River, near the site where tradition teaches that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.