By Patrick Moser (AFP) – 6 Oct 2009
JERUSALEM — Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world marched through the streets of Jerusalem on Tuesday, chanting their support for Israel and praying for peace in the Holy Land.
“People must understand the Holy Land was given by God to the Jews,” said Rosie Smith, one of a group of English women clad from head to toe in the Israeli flag. By Holy Land, she said she meant not just what is now Israel but also Jordan and the occupied West Bank.
“We are Christians who stand with Israel,” she said. Her views echo those of many of the pilgrims who turned up at the march.
Marching under dozens of national banners, the pilgrims made their way from a park near parliament to the gates of the Old City.
The Angolan delegation swayed to a furious beat while the Singapore delegation swirled colourful banners in the air, chanting the Hebrew song Shalom Aleichem (peace be upon you).
Colourful costumes abounded, such as the cloth with a map of the world below the words “Virtuous Women Community” wrapped around a Zimbabwean who identified herself as Mother General Prophetess AC Manjoro.
The Korean delegation sported T-shirts proclaiming: “Prepare the way for the King of Glory.”
Grace Galindez-Gupana from the Philippines proudly held up a flag of Jerusalem.
“We are here as flag-carriers for Israel at a time when evil forces are seeking to divide Jerusalem,” she said, her booming voice quivering with emotion.
“It says in the Bible that those who bless Israel will be blessed, those who curse her will be cursed,” said Galindez-Gupana. She claims to hold the world record for the “longest Drawing of Idols burned to Ashes (over five kilometers — three miles of drawings of biblical beasts that were set alight.)
Many said the annual pilgrimage, organised by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ,) represented a fulfilment of a Biblical prophesy that all nations would gather in Jerusalem for Sukkot — the Feast of Tabernacles — which the Jewish faithful celebrate this week.
Israelis headed the procession, with employees of weapons manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defence Systems marching in the lead, in step to a drumbeat and holding up a model of a missile. Nearby a man was dressed up as a fighter jet.
“We are proud to be part of this,” said Ron Collard, 70, who travelled from Turangi, New Zealand to attend the Sukkot celebrations in Israel.
The tourism ministry also hailed the event, and the tourist dollars it brought in.
The ministry estimated at 8,000 the number of Christians who travelled to Israel for the Sukkot week, saying this amounted to 56,000 hotel nights and income of between 16 million and 18 million dollars (11 million-12 million euros).