With the seven-day Jewish festival of Sukkot in progress, thousands of evangelical Christians from more than 80 countries have descended upon Jerusalem in celebration as well. They are participating in a gathering billed as the Feast of Tabernacles, the English translation of the Hebrew Sukkot, which is aimed at celebrating Christianity while showing support for Israel, according to the Associated Press.
The summit is put on by the evangelical, pro-Israel group called the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which said that of the world's estimated 2 billion Christians, some 700 million are evangelicals. Some in Israel have been skeptical of the Christians' motives, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the visitors.
"Israel has no better friends throughout the world," the prime minister said in a videotaped address to the Christian pilgrims Tuesday, according to the AP.
— ICEJ Official (@ICEJofficial) September 26, 2015
The Christians told the AP their affection for Israel comes from an anticipated Messianic age when all will flock to the city of Jerusalem. Some in Israel have long been suspicious that the evangelical interest comes from the belief of a coming apocalypse in which Jesus will return and Jews who do not convert will be annihilated. Israel's chief rabbis, who expressed concern that the Christians were attempting to convert Jews in Israel, called for a boycott of a rally open to Israelis, calling it "spiritually dangerous," according to the AP.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem website states the festival is aimed at celebrating the Christian faith and the coming of an eventual Judgment Day in Jerusalem.
"Yet when Christians flock to Jerusalem now to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, it serves as a powerful statement of faith that we believe that day is coming when the earth will finally be at rest in Messiah, the King of Israel," it reads. "For the past 35 years, thousands of Christians from all over the world have come up to Jerusalem each fall to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. They come with much expectancy to take part in a dynamic worship experience, knowing the One we worship will soon be sitting on His throne in this great city."
The events of the Feast of Tabernacles gathering began Sunday and are expected to run through Friday in Jerusalem's Pais Arena. The rally open to Israeli guests is scheduled for Thursday and a final prayer is scheduled for Friday.
Click here to view the live stream set up by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.