Itongadol.- Thousands of evangelical Christians from more than 80 countries descended upon Jerusalem this week to show their support for the Jewish state, including pilgrims and politicians from countries with a history of hostility toward Israel.
Christian evangelicals in Jerusalem show love for Israel
The celebratory summit reflects evangelical Christianity\’s dramatic growth worldwide and gives a boost to Israel at a time when the country is increasingly isolated internationally.
Attitudes in Israel toward evangelicals are evolving, from skepticism about Christian Zionist motives to the realization that Israel cannot survive on the support of Diaspora Jewish communities alone and is in no position to turn down the potential political and tourism boost the Christians can provide.
"Israel has no better friends throughout the world," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped address that was beamed to a Jerusalem basketball stadium packed with cheering pilgrims Tuesday. The gatherers waved flags from home countries such as Angola, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy and the U.S. There was even a small delegation from Egypt, a country that shares a cold peace with Israel.
Evangelical Christianity is one of the world\’s fastest growing religious movements. Of the world\’s estimated 2 billion Christians, some 700 million are evangelicals, according to the pro-Israel International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which organized the summit.
Evangelical movements are expanding most prominently in Latin America, Africa and Asia — regions that "hold great potential for the nation of Israel in political, diplomatic and economic terms," according to a position paper the group presented last year to Israel\’s Foreign Ministry.
The annual weeklong summit is billed as the "Feast of Tabernacles," the Christian term for the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which in biblical times was marked by a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. This year\’s gathering included rock concert prayer rallies in which believers sang Hebrew songs and an annual flag-waving parade through the streets of Jerusalem.
Evangelicals say their affinity for Israel stems from Christianity\’s Jewish roots and an anticipated Messianic age when all nations of the earth will flock to Jerusalem. Jews and Christians both believe in a future Messianic age, though Jews do not accept the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah.